Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: The main attraction

10.21.2009 Comments: (3)
So, the big trees happened. About 13 hours of travelling happened. Onto day 2.
We spent the first night in Albany, Oregon I believe, which is a bit south of Portland. We hung a right at Portland and found ourselves in the Columbia River Gorge. Which is full of those "wow, this is really gorgeous" moments. The gorge system is basically what the Columbia River has formed over thousands of years, sort of like the Grand Canyon. It's 80 miles long, and is the boundary between Oregon and Washington. It's one of our new favorite places. There are a lot of sports to try (kiteboarding anyone?), cute towns to stop in, and there's lots and lots of wine. Random, I know, but there are wineries all over the place up there. Good times. We found a little town that we're already trying to find an excuse to get back to called Hood River, where I think I can lay around in a bed and breakfast and read while Dan does various active type things.
We highly, highly recommend Springhouse Cellars as they have some very unique tasty wines, at very reasonable prices. But they make our favorites list, even more so, for being very personable, incredibly small compared to our CA wineries, and beyond incredibly kind to us. They even ship to just about everywhere (sorry PA and MD folks reading this). We drove and drove and drove. We ended up driving directly to the first concert because it just took us longer than expected, and we didn't have an extra 2 hours to get to our hotel and back. (Yes, the closest hotels to the concert are about 45 minutes away). We had no idea what to really expect, especially when we parked the car and we didn't even know which direction to walk because we couldn't see anything that looked like a stage. It was weird, but we followed the crowd over along path, up a slope and then at the top of the hill, looked down on this:
That's the stage there in the middle, with the gorge and the river behind. This picture is taken from the top of the lawn, and you can't see where we sat at all because the lawn is so freakin steep. The whole setup is literally built into the side of a cliff and is beautiful and wonderful and my happy place.
Closer up of the stage itself. The seats below are where we sat - two nights off to the right, one night almost dead center. Right now, you can see through the stage setup to all the scenery behind, but there were screens there once the band started.
For the next two days (days 3 and 4), we spent the night in a lovely little hotel out in the middle of nowhere (Moses Lake, WA) listening to trucks drive by on the interstate, and eating all the food we brought with us and then going to the concerts at night. It did not at all resemble real life.
We got pretty lucky in that the people sitting around us were cool. For me, if you have a jackass guy next to you or a drunk chick who can't stand up, it takes away from the whole experience you know? Actually, we spent a couple of nights near the same people, as they had also requested their tickets through the fan club, so that was nice. The first night we had one woman almost throwing up, but her boyfriend wisely decided that they should leave before any actual incident. The second night we were sitting next to a father and son who had driven in from Seattle, and they seemed very low key and calm, so we were excited to have more normal folks to sit next to. And....then the band came out and the son lost his shit. Seriously. You can hear him on some of the video we took that night, it was intense.
The other thing that is awesome about concerts here is if you drive, parking really isn't an issue, and neither is the wait after the concert to get out of the lot. Thousands of people camp at these shows. Because it's a multi-night event, and it's so far away from civilization, there are campsites much closer to the venue than hotels. And wow do people camp. You can see the tent cities from the lawn, and they are huge. Originally, I got Dan interested in going by telling him we could camp...and then I read stories of all the drunk people, and stuff getting stolen, and no showers, and no shade and...then we went to a hotel. Once he saw the tent city, especially in the rain on the second night, I don't think he felt like he was missing out.
So yeah, the Gorge. 3 nights. Favorite.
This shot is from the second show, it is not zoomed in at all.
And here we are, also on the second night, grinning like loons.
Next time will include highlights of our outings: Spokane, a short jaunt into Idaho, Multnomah Falls and strawberries on a stick.

Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: Very large trees

10.08.2009 Comments: (2)
Disclaimer: I was going to write this post tomorrow night, as I have a pretty rockin headache this evening. But tomorrow, we have to take the cats to the vet, and as it's a production even getting them in their carriers, I think tomorrow I'm just going to want to sit down with a couple glasses of wine. So, apologies for lack of quality writing here. My head, it is pounding. *********************************************************************** So we left off with me sharing that we decided to drive up to Washington state, and you probably rolling your eyes at our crazy nutjob ideas. I can't blame you for that. We did decide, though, that we would see the sites along the way, as we probably would not be making the drive again. This was the perfect opportunity for us to see the largest and tallest of the California redwoods, which are up along the coast near NOTHING else. No towns, no airports, no anything. Just five or six hours north of the Bay Area along winding mountain roads. We've actually had the redwoods on the list of things to see in California since before we moved here, but here we actually found an opportunity to get there. Instead of taking the major interstate north, we took the less traveled, less convenient side road, which, while beautiful, was going to extend our first day of driving by about 4 extra hours. (For those who have ever driven 81 down to Blacksburg, this was like taking the Blue Ridge Parkway...magnificent vistas, but so...much...longer...) Plus, Dan and I are sort of ambling roadtrippers, so our trips are not short. We're liable to stop at any random touristy attraction we see on a billboard...hence our trip to the drive-through tree. And our need to drive all the way through the Avenue of the Giants. And pull over at the One Log House, if only to take pictures and mourn the fact that we arrived just after it closed. I have to tell you, the trees up there are really freakin big. Truly, you can't believe it unless you see it. The Avenue of the Giants is a side road to the previously mentioned side road that winds through the densest parts of the forest alongside some of the tallest, widest, oldest trees. There were several times that we thought we were going to be entering a tunnel up ahead, only to keep driving and see that, nope, just big trees next to the road. They block out the sun. And they smell fantastic. We were lucky enough to be up there when there weren't really other people around, so we spent some time lying down in the middle of the road to try and grasp how small and insignificant we are, and climbing in and around trees that had fallen over. It was really amazing. Even though I was cursing our trip when we entered our 12th hour of driving that day, I'm really really glad we went. Definitely one of my favorite sights so far, you know, in my life. So, this is the Chandelier Tree, is 315 feet high, 21 feet in diameter and it's maximum age is 2400 years. We got to drive through it, because there is a big enough hole in the bottom of it for (small) cars. The hole was made sometime in the late 1930s, and it's one of (I think) 3 drive through trees that are still standing. No more have been created, what with the opinion that this sort of thing is probably really bad for the tree. Here I am actually driving through the tree. It made me super nervous that I was going to get my tiny rental car stuck in there, but nope, all went well. Can you imagine calling roadside assistance on that? "Hi, I went ahead and got my car stuck in a tree...probably going to need a tow truck." These are some big big dense trees along the Aveue of the Giants. No picture is really going to provide the perspective that's necessary, so just believe us when we say really really big beautiful trees. This is a tree we found that has, obviously, fallen over. Again, this picture doesn't really provide a lot of good perspective on the size of this enormous tree. Which is why I have provided the next picture. Scroll down. That's Dan, all six feet of him, standing with lots of room to spare inside that same tree. They are huge. I do not know how else to express this. This is just a pretty shot of the moon near the end of the daylight on day one of our epic drive. Coming soon: Hood River, 3 nights of concerts, Spokane and Idaho. Get excited.

Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: The build up

10.04.2009 Comments: (1)
This story actually starts in April of this year, when Dave Matthews Band released their tour dates for this summer and fall. As many of you know, I'm a pretty devoted (read: crazy) fan, and go to at least one show a year. Since we've moved out here, Dan and I have seen them play in Mountain View (where Google lives, about 45 minutes away) and then last year, they played a weekend series of shows right on campus, which was amazing. This year, when the tour dates came out, they weren't playing in either of those places. Um, what? They had one tentative date for a TBA location in San Francisco, but the details were sketchy. Not having tickets to a show for this year made me itchy.
As they do every summer, they were planning on playing a three night weekend series at The Gorge Amphitheater in central Washington. I've always wanted to see them at the Gorge - it's an amazing venue. It's outdoors, built right into a hillside that overlooks the Columbia River. I've seen lots of pictures, and heard a lot of recordings from here, because DMB releases a lot of their live music. You probably know where this story is headed - yes, I requested tickets for all three nights at the Gorge. When I found out that I got tickets for all three nights, I was beyond excited. As in, this is something I can check off my "life to do" list excited.
Now I just had to figure out how the hell to get us up there, and where we would stay. The actual concert venue is not in a town but is closest to George, Washington (seriously!) I recommend you Google Map it to see how much it is in the middle of nowhere. Two hours away from Seattle, 90 minutes away from Spokane. 45 minutes from the closest hotels, oh my. I originally sold Dan on the idea of going at all with the idea of camping - because the band plays 3 nights in a row, camping near the concert venue is offered, and I think somewhere between 8 and 10 thousand people actually go and camp. Dan was all about the entire experience - but after I read some boards about no showers at the campsites, stupid drunk people at all hours, things getting stolen, we changed our minds. Also, we own no camping gear to speak of.
So we drove. From Berkeley to central Washington. I reasoned that if we flew, we'd just have to rent a car anyway, so why double the expense, plus plane fare over Labor Day weekend was kind of ridiculous. However, it was far. Google maps told me about 16 hours up, and 14 hours back (different routes), about 900 miles. Luckily, we had the time to split up the drive over two days each way. But yeah, still really far...
Coming up: The California redwoods, Columbia River gorge, and many concert photos