The Oregon Trail, Circa 2008

by | Aug 24, 2008

We just completed a nine day journey cross country by car from coastal South Carolina to Portland, Oregon. On day one, we stopped for lunch in Asheville, NC to say “hi” to Gary and Katie. We then pushed on to Lexington, KY for the night. From the hotel we walked first to Mexican food and top shelf margs, then over to the historic Red Mile for harness racing. In the morning we found our coffee place downtown, before heading out to horse country for a tour of the distillery where the world’s best bourbon, Woodford Reserve, is made.

From the limestone hills of Kentucky, we headed north for Cincinnati where our wonderful hosts, Dave and Tera Ackerman, plus their kids, dogs and friends entertained us in their fine Craftsman-era home. That was fun. Day three took us northwest to Chicago where Casey and Gwen opened their Ravenswood apartment to us for the night. Stef came over and we walked down to Pizza D.O.C. on Lawrence to meet Liz and Buban for dinner. Pizza D.O.C. rocks, as does having dinner with friends one hasn’t seen in years. There was more drinking at two Lincoln Square bars after dinner–hey, this is Chicago we’re talking about here–before retiring to Casey and Gwen’s.

Sunday we dropped in on Evil Vince for a visit, before heading west. When Chicago started to give way to the fields of corn, I started to feel good. I felt even better when we crossed the Mississippi River and drove through the picturesque hills of Iowa. The sunset and simultaneous moonrise, as we were pulling into Omaha on night four, was stunning. We grabbed some salad, pizza and wine for dinner at a patio table in the Old Market before heading over for a free night on points at Hilton Garden Inn. In the morning I met with Shawn at his work place and had a chance to talk to his boss about picking up some copywriting assignments. We then met my aunt Leanne for lunch at Kona Grill in West O before heading for the Sandhills on Highway 2. We stopped in Halsey–where my grandpa and I used to go deer hunting–to mail some letters. At Seneca, we pulled over to see the Middle Loup River up close. A local gentleman directed us to his “rickety” cable and plyboard bridge over the river, a kind gesture we greatly appreciated.

We looked for a dinner spot in Alliance but decided to head on to Scottsbluff for the night. When we got there places were closing, but The Gaslight in Gering took us in and made steaks for us. I love Nebraska and Nebraskans. On day six we took the back way to Laramie, seeing the North Platte River near Fort Laramie. In the college town of Laramie we ate a kind hippie lunch at Jeffrey’s Bistro before heading over to Martindale’s for some new pearl snaps and a straw hat. That’s Laramie in a nutshell–part hippie, part cowboy.

We pushed westward on I-80 to Salt Lake City, where DK was entertaining his family rooftop at American Towers. DK and Anina recently purchased a truly outstanding 19th floor apartment in American Towers, with south-, west- and north-facing views. In the morning we headed up City Creek Canyon for a hike, then ventured across the tracks to Red Iguana for a mole festival at one of the nation’s best Mexican joints.

We were tempted to stay another night in SLC, but opted instead to drive five hours further west on I-80 to Winnemucca, where I thought we’d rent a cute little cabin or roadhouse room for the night. Instead, we looked at several flea-bitten options before settling in to the Days Inn. Thankfully, the grocery store had a Peet’s Coffee in it, so we fueled up in the morning and headed onto one of the loneliest stretches of two-lane road you’ll find anywhere in America. North of Winnemucca about 40 miles, we turned left onto Highway 140, which goes for many miles before delivering one to Oregon and the homey little town of Lakeview. Jerry’s Restaurant in Lakeview made us perfectly prepared hash browns to go with our sandwiches and iced tea. We then took more country roads toward Crater Lake National Park, a park we’d never visited before. After you enter the park, you climb up several thousand feet to the rim of the ancient volcano and peer into the pearl blue otherworldly lake. Wow.

We took Highway 138 north from the park and wound down the canyon with the North Umpqua River as our guide. Another major wow. We caught up with the interstate highway system again in Roseburg and punched it up to Eugene for the night, where we dined on Thai food and infused ginger-cranberry cocktails. We made it to Portland by mid-day on Friday and began to settle in.