2015: The Year In Place

2015: The Year In Place

I started tracking my movements about the country a decade ago (and logging them here) as an annual exercise meant to encourage memory, cataloguing and in the best cases a bit of travel writing.


Looking back on it, 2015 wasn’t a big year in travel, although quality and quantity are two different things.

Here’s a list of amazing places where I spent one or more nights away from home:

  • Hood River, OR
  • Seattle, WA
  • Cannon Beach, OR
  • Marco Island, FL
  • Bend, OR
  • Omaha, NE
  • Long Beach, WA

We traveled to Seattle for Poppy’s fourth birthday; to Cannon Beach for my 50th birthday; to Florida for Danna and Gary’s 50th anniversary; to Bend for my first Phish shows in 18 years; and to Nebraska for the opening game of The Mike Riley era.

2015 was also the year of the home for Darby and me. We purchased the mid-century home in West Linn that we had rented for four years, and invested time and energy in repairs and remodeling. It’s good to be home, and good to have a place to come home to, after expeditions near and far.

Prior movements: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |2008 | 2007 | 2006

Beyond The Swoosh: How Oregon Can Be More Like Nike

Earlier this month Nike announced the start of a succession planning process that will conclude in the appointment of the company’s next Chairman.

Enigmatic Phil Knight, Oregon’s only billionaire, will relinquish his powerful Chairman role. At the same time, his son Travis ascends to a seat on the company’s board of directors.

The Oregonian’s editorial board came out in favor of these moves, and in favor of success in general. “Oregon is known as hip, innovative, tolerant and an overall cool place to be. Unlike Nike, it’s not necessarily known for success,” the board argued.

According to the state’s largest newspaper, success is attained by building a great brand, going beyond your natural strengths and not letting mistakes cripple you. All lessons that we can glean from Nike’s path from Blue Ribbon Sports to the global sports powerhouse it is today. Provided we’re willing to overcome any reservations we may have about Nike and Knight.

Despite all his success, Phil Knight was never hugely popular in Oregon, except among fans of Oregon Ducks sports teams. Some of that probably is a product of his personality and some of it because Oregon does not easily embrace financial success. And maybe that’s the biggest difference of all between Nike and Oregon. It’s hard to be successful without fully embracing success.

When you strip out these words and lay them bare: “Oregon does not easily embrace financial success,” they seem absurd. What do Oregonians embrace? Bottomless bowls of granola? Nature, and a more humane approach to work? I think yes, Oregonians do follow their own rules and the rules are relaxed. At the same time, the people of Oregon are complex and can’t be summed up that easily. For instance, the state has a rich industrial history, and we continue to lean heavily on manufacturing today. Locally, “Made in the U.S.A.” means “Made in Oregon.” Nike, of course, manufactures its shoes in overseas plants. That’s at odds with the Oregon way, and you might say the American way. Making shoes in Oregon would reduce profits, but it would win a lot of hearts and minds.

Back to the idea of not embracing financial success. It sounds like a Sunday School lesson from the New England Puritans who came West, not for gold but for a virgin land upon which to imprint their indelible and chaste stamp. Of course, none of that squares with the history of bar owners, loggers, ship builders, fishermen, cowboys, and various other rogues who also made Oregon what it is today. I don’t know if Phil Knight identifies with the Puritans or the rogues. What matters is resolving in some way these conflicting views of ourselves as Oregonians. To truly reject the creation of wealth makes us outcasts in the American experiment. It seems to me what we want is the creation of sustainable wealth through more conscious means.

For too long being pro-business has meant being anti-environment. Here again we find tension between the poles, when what we need is agreement to meet in the middle. We can achieve controlled growth, but it is growth, nonetheless. Ideas about Californians going home are stale. Statistically speaking, no one’s going home. Now, let’s meet the reality of population growth with economic growth, so the great majority can afford to benefit from the world-class schools, healthcare, transportation, food and beverage, architecture, arts and sports that help define Portland and Oregon. The magical beauty and mild weather are gifts. The rest we must work to perfect.

Inside Van Evera Bailey’s Mid-Century Hilltop Masterpieces

Inside Van Evera Bailey’s Mid-Century Hilltop Masterpieces

Last Saturday, Restore Oregon hosted a tour of six homes in Lake Oswego and SW Portland, all designed by noted Portland architect Van Evera Bailey (1903-1980).

Brian Libby of Portland Architecture argues, “if Northwest midcentury-modern houses are arguably the most significant and unique contribution that Portland has contributed to world architecture, then Bailey not only deserves his place alongside Pietro Belluschi and John Yeon, but a larger recognition beyond Oregon’s borders.”

Van Evera Bailey
See more photos

All six homes were interesting to see up close, but two homes in particular stood out on the tour—the Bruno Residence (1939) on Ridecrest Drive in Lake Oswego and the Shaw Residence (1957) on SW Hessler Drive in Portland.

Bailey’s clients purchased dramatic hilltop lots and he made the most of the settings. The homes appear to be humble from the street. But open the front door and move through the compressed entries into the expansive living rooms, and any concept of humble is long gone.

hessler drive

The raw wood ceilings are at once soaring and grounding. An architect can’t improve on the natural forest, but he can showcase the raw material in flattering ways, as Bailey has done.

One’s home is one’s sanctuary, and Bailey definitely plays to this ideal. He incorporates Prairie style lines and he places his building on the lot carefully, so it belongs to the landscape.

I couldn’t help thinking about the architect’s state of mind as the nation endured, then emerged from WWII and the Great Depression. Bailey’s homes are for optimists, people able to see the big picture (literally). He worked in California early in his career, and he learned the trade from a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. He wears his influences well.

Bruno Residence

Here’s a look at some of Bailey’s homes that have recently sold.

I Vote Yes On Measure 92

On Nov. 4, Oregon voters will decide the fate of Measure 92, which would make the state one of the few in the country to require labeling of GMO foods.

Opponents of the measure, mainly food manufacturers and chemical companies, have pumped more than $7 million into the No on 92 Coalition effort. If you watch TV in the Portland area, the following spot is running regularly:


Proponents of the measure so far have raised about $4.5 million, according to Oregon Secretary of State financial filings. I have not seen this spot on TV:

Meanwhile, The Oregonian reports that Measure 92 is on track to become the costliest in Oregon history in terms of campaign contributions.

Interestingly, Ben & Jerry’s is one food manufacturer that is solidly for the measure. In fact, Jerry Greenfiled, CEO and co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, flew to Portland for a “ceremonial” rebranding of Fudge Brownie to Food Fight Fudge Brownie.

We live in an information-rich society. Honestly, a shopper today may want to scan any and every grocery store item for nutritional data, menu ideas and sourcing, packaging and transit information.

Knowledge is power, and transparency is the reality of our time. Food growers, manufacturers and retailers can sway shoppers with rich information (a truer form of marketing). Provide the food, and the facts about the food—that’s the recipe for eat and repeat.

Oregon Wants To Benefit From The Energy Game, Without Getting Played

Oregon Wants To Benefit From The Energy Game, Without Getting Played

“Priority one for me has always been ensuring American jobs and employers see the full benefits of the natural gas renaissance.” -Oregon Senator Ron Wyden

Energy is often produced in rural areas for the benefit of urban dwellers, who sometimes live and work hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the source. Meanwhile, citizens of rural communities do not begrudge the arrangement—they are hungry for work and the prosperity that comes in the form of high-paying jobs, energy leases, corporate taxes and so on.

Today, in southern Oregon this drama is playing out, as it is in communities across the nation. The proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline, would transport liquefied natural gas, or LNG, 232 miles from Malin, Oregon—where an existing pipeline terminates—to Coos Bay, where an export facility would be built.

southern oregon lng pipeline

The export facility is a $7.7 billion proposal in its own right. Jordan Cove, which is owned by Calgary-based Veresen Inc., and its associated infrastructure will be the single largest private investment in Oregon’s history. According to The Washington Examiner, Jordan Cove is the seventh and latest natural gas export terminal approved by the Energy Department. The Obama administration supports exporting more natural gas.

If it gets built, Jordan Cove would be the first U.S. export terminal on the West Coast, giving it prime real estate to tap into Asian markets thirsty for natural gas.

Naturally, there are forces opposed. “Jordan Cove still needs a slew of federal and state permits to begin construction,” said Zack Malitz of San Francisco-based environmental group Credo, which is opposed to exports because it could lead to more drilling. The Oregon Sierra Club is also squarely against.

The Jordan Cove export terminal at Coos Bay would require the largest port dredging project in Oregon’s history in habitat important for marine species and the fishermen that depend on them. A 230-mile-long pipeline would be built to deliver gas to the terminal, crossing nearly 400 streams in the Klamath, Rogue, Umpqua, Coquille, and Coos watersheds.

In related news, there are greener energy developments brewing along the Oregon coast. The state of Oregon has invested more than $10 million in the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, to fund research and other projects to accelerate the development of wave power in Oregon.

In 2012, Ocean Power Technologies, a Pennington, N.J.-based wave energy company, appeared set to build America’s first grid-connected wave energy project, a 1.5-megawatt power station composed of 10 “PowerBuoys” in waters near Reedsport, Ore. Sadly, they abandoned the project earlier this spring.

In yet another development, Principle Power Inc. is a Seattle company with a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a wind project off the Oregon coast, near Coos Bay.

“We like what Coos Bay has to offer,” said Kevin Banister, vice president of business development and government affairs for Principle Power. “It’s in the middle of a really rich band of offshore wind.”

Principle said it could have five massive turbines spinning by the summer of 2017.

Poetry Is The Corrective

America needs more poets and more lovers of poetry.

I am prepared to do my part as a citizen, and as a writer and reader of verse.

The clever display of the poem fragment above is from Paulann Petersen, Oregon’s Poet Laureate. Interestingly, in this Art Beat Oregon segment on OPB, Petersen says poetry must be spoken to be fully realized.

She is right! Here I am sounding out a poem about living in the white noise of Chicago.

U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, writing in Virginia Quarterly, says it’s important to see poetry as a cultural force, and to believe in the necessity of it.

Trethewey also makes this deeply poetic point about poetry’s place in our culture:

Each day we are faced with sound bites and catchphrases deadening and trivializing our language, the widening gulf of our ideological differences eroding civil discourse and our ability to truly communicate with each other, to hear each other. For all of that, poetry is the corrective, the sacred language that allows us to connect across time and space, across all the things in everyday life that separate us and would destroy us.

“Poetry is the corrective.”

Damn. What a great thought perfectly expressed.

2013—The Year in Place

2013—The Year in Place

“Choose my bluest tape and unlock my car
An honest tune with a lingering lead has taken me this far” – Houser/Bell


Here’s a run down of the places (other than home) where I spent at least one night in 2013:

  • Smithtown, NY
  • Marco Island, FL
  • Seattle, WA*
  • Brownsville, OR*
  • Takhlakh Lake, WA
  • Yakima, WA
  • Abbotsford, BC
  • Lake Country, BC
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Baker City, OR
  • Garibaldi, OR

The year in travel was highlighted by an extraordinary summer vacation in Lake Country, BC. The area is described as Canada’s Napa for its bountiful wineries. It’s much more than wine though, it’s lake living at its finest. So, if you want to compare Okanagan to a place in California, think Tahoe, but with outstanding wine.

Seattle loomed large in 2013 too. I visited the Emerald City four times, including for my birthday last April, for Ryan’s birthday and for Dan and Val’s wedding in July.

Baker City is a place I can’t wait to return to — there’s something powerfully alluring about NE Oregon. For it is tempting to believe that all the last great American places are taken, but NE Oregon and the Wallowa Mountains in particular are not Aspenized in the least.

Past Travels: 2012 | 2011 |2010 |2009 |2008 |2007 |2006

Takhlakh Lake To Rattlesnake Hills And Back: A Journey Around The Lonely Volcano

Takhlakh Lake To Rattlesnake Hills And Back: A Journey Around The Lonely Volcano

I recently pitched Travel & Leisure on a “three days in Oregon food and beverage experience,” and I can see how that article–and the trip it will require to write it–plays out. But more on that another day. Today, I want to detail a different route into the heart of south central Washington.


Mt. Adams, visible on a clear day from Portland, is the lonely volcano in the range. Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier are iconic and Mt. St. Helens blew its freaking top, so it’s something of an attraction. Where does this leave Mt. Adams? Unheralded. Unpopulated. And unknown. But don’t feel bad for the mountain, it likely enjoys its freedom from modernity.

Speaking of freedom from modernity, once you pass Trout Lake you’re on rough, boulder-strewn roads to nowhere. Or somewhere, depending on your clarity of mind and purpose. After making it all the way to the northwest flank of the volcano, we were handsomely rewarded for our efforts, as Takhlakh Lake at 4400 feet above sea level is spellbinding and the mountain beyond totally intoxicating in its rugged beauty.


See my Flickr set here.

Darby and I set up camp, then hiked around the lake with Lucy and up into a 3000-year old lava flow. Looking back we saw Mt. Rainier in the distance–the place where we got married on July 4, 2009. What a spot this, saddled between the two towering volcanoes on our fourth anniversary.

Our evening was spent fighting off mosquitos, but happily, as we were prepared with wipe-on bug juice. We also collected plenty of “forest hair” a.k.a. dried moss to smoke the little suckers out. Miraculously, no mosquitos managed to make it inside the tent and we spent a peaceful, firecracker and bug free night under cloudy skies.

In the morning we drank iced coffee and packed up camp early, in order to set sail from Takhlakh Lake to Yakima. We proceeded slowly down and out of the Mt. Adams Recreation Area on Forest Road 23, finally reaching State Highway 12, which runs east and west and skirts the southern edge of Mt. Rainier National Park, en route to the sunny desert and fruits of Yakima Valley.

Along the way, we stopped at Dog Lake and prepared a parfait of fresh fruit, granola and yogurt, which we ate lakeside in the cold alpine wind. After breakfast, we descended down into the Tieton River valley and pulled over for a splash-fresh-water-on-your-face-and-head moment. I love to see a river run and this one runs prettily over its rock bed.

Adams view from Zillah

North Park Lodge, our hotel in Seyla just north of Yakima, let us check in early which was a score since we wanted to shower and prepare for an afternoon of winery visits in Zillah. Rested and refreshed, picnic-basket in hand and Lucy on leash, we zipped down I-82 to the Rattlesnake Hills section of the Yakima Valley, and opened up with an uneventful tasting at Knight Hill.

Next stop, Hyatt Vineyards. Three women on horseback rode up as we entered the property to assure us that we were indeed in the West. The tasting room was on the cheesy side, but we purchased a delicious blend for just $14.99 and Darby and I enjoyed our picnic on the winery’s patio (with Mt. Adams views) immensely.

Down the road at Two Mountain Winery, the host was particularly gracious and the wine worth taking home. Following our tasting, she sent us down the road to Cultura, a micro-producer with three of its four acres planted in Cab Franc vines.

Rattlesnake Hills reminds me of Dundee Hills with its high density of wineries, but the terrain and weather are much different. Therefore, the grapes that thrive here are different. The delicate pinot grapes so beloved in Oregon are not hardy enough to survive the summer in Zillah. Varietals that do enjoy the intense desert sun and high temps naturally produce wine with a ton of flavor and character.

At this time, Yakima lacks the wine tourism infrastructure of Dundee or Walla Walla. It’s an agricultural community, with grapes being one part of a much larger whole. But this lack of tourist charm, or “local character,” also makes the place uniquely appealing for wine tourism. This is red, white and blue America. Family farms under the volcano, and there’s not much in the way of fancy. But if it’s flavorful wine that you want to drink at a price you can afford, then you’re in luck as it’s available in copious supply.

2015: The Year In Place

Enter The Ungroomed Disc Golf Course At Your Own Risk

ALBANY, OR—Bryant Park Disc Golf Course is a difficult course to play well. The layout is long and confusing with no directional signs whatsoever, and the wooded holes are densely packed with trees and brush. Keeping your disc in play on this course is essential, or the pleasant round you imagined may rapidly descend into a battle for disc golf survival.


Such was my state on Friday. My first toss of the day sailed hard to the left, directly into the woods by the river and it took us a good 15 minutes of crawling through thickets to locate my Gazelle.

For me, it was that kind of day on the course. I ended up losing my Gazelle later in the round, and I hate the feelings of being deprived and unsettled that come from it. But, it’s either leave the disc or scratch the hell out of yourself and drive yourself crazy digging through the thick growth on the forest floor for undeterminded stretches of time.

Disc Golf Course Review gives Bryant Park a 3.53 rating. “Half the course is long open holes under large deciduous trees in a city park setting; the other half is narrow holes (some short, some long) carved out of a nasty blackberry/ivy jungle.” Emphasis, on nasty.

One reviewer on the site, “mthill” says:

I like to call Bryant Park the Darkhorse of the Willamette Valley courses. What it lacks in aesthetic features, it makes up for in challenging play. This is one of the hardest courses around (in a good way) and will make you play better at your local course guaranteed.

Another player, “steezejenkins” notes, “It can be retarded hard if your having an off day.” He said that right. I had one gorgeous putt and a beautiful drive that led to a birdie. The remainder of my 91 tosses (on this par 60 course) banged off of thin little trees in the middle of the fairways, (that could be cleared from the park), or sailed wide. Many of the pin placements are blind from the tee, and placed in intentionally difficult places to reach. If you’re a beginner or an intermediate player on an off-day, Bryant Park isn’t the course you want to play.

Disc golfers in Oregon are fortunate in that there are courses for every level of player and every situation. If you want to get schooled by a particularly tough outing, by all means seek out “the destroyer course” near you. On the other hand, if you want to keep your discs in play, focus on your motion and complete a quick nine before happy hour, you’ll need to locate a municipal groomer that, by comparison, is literally a walk in the park.

Personally, I most enjoy a course that’s somewhere in the middle, not too easy and not too hard. Until I learn to throw consistently straight and long, a course like Bryant Park is tough to play. I recognize that you want a course to push you to be better, and a course like this will do that. All I’m saying is know what you’re getting in to and bring plenty of water, replacement discs and a ton of humility and patience.

Gratefully, Albany is also home to Calapooia Brewing, one of Oregon’s finest craft-brewers. A visit to this ideal 19th hole certainly helps smooth things out after a round, no matter how pitiful, or brilliant, your score on the course.

Craft Brewers And Winemakers Share The Disc Golf Spirit

Craft Brewers And Winemakers Share The Disc Golf Spirit

Yamhill County in the Willamette Valley is the very heart of Oregon’s most famous wine region. Yamhill County, and the town of Newberg in particular, is also home to some great disc golf courses.

In downtown Newberg, you can play the nine-hole course located in Herbert Hoover Park, or find Ewing Young’s 12-hole nature course on the outskirts of town. Both courses are well worth the time spent in the car from Portland or Salem, and both courses are within spittin’ distance of dozens of outstanding wineries.

power move in newberg

After playing Ewing Young last weekend, I started wondering if any Oregon wineries had a disc golf course on premise. Given how valuable Oregon’s wine-growing land is, it might not be the most economically feasible idea.

I think we will see more of this and more opportunities to combine adventure travel, food and wine, natural history and disc sports. In fact, I can definitely imagine a successful tour company operating Pacific Northwest eco-tourism packages, where disc golf plays prominently in the daytime activities.