This summer marks our third trip to visit friends in Hood River in the past 5 years. This town, resting between the foothills of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, is what we want America to be. Country roads are lined with blueberry patches, cherry orchards and fields of lavender, with signs inviting you to pick your own fresh supply. Coffee shops, breweries, and restaurants line the main drag. Kite surfers skim the wide windswept river bookended by two snowcapped volcanic peaks. For the second time, we found ourselves visiting over the Fourth of July and had a chance to enjoy the parade, which featured everything from a “Save the Bees” float to an amazing unit of Mexican horse riders.
Speaking of that “Save the Bees” float… shortly after helping paint that float, Monica was stung by a bee while on a training run, which she found to be extremely ungrateful on the part of the bees. She has a pretty nasty localized allergy, so her leg swelled up over the course of a few days. She ran a 7.4 mile race to start July 4 and our daughter was a non-stinging bee in the parade (their float won first place – we’re not sure where Monica placed).
Hood River offered us a chance to regroup after Yosemite. Our friends Peter and Laurie fed us an endless supply of salad picked fresh from their garden.
The van finally got a wash, a mere 4,000 miles into the trip. It’s a little known fact that there are no grocery stores in Oregon because food is just growing everywhere. We picked blueberries and cherries and bought some fresh sockeye salmon from the local Native Americans (fishing limits do not apply since they arrived a millennia before us.)
From the “In Florida, some idiot would ruin this for everyone” file, we stopped at Mosier Creek Falls (park on the curve in the road, hop the guard-rail, and go down the slope). Not as cold as the Merced River, but it’s still… cold. Although she didn’t have her bathing suit, after watching a bunch of teenagers jump in, Monica couldn’t resist.
One of the events that has been circled on our calendar for many months was a concert at one of the infinitely cool and unique properties run by the McMenamin brothers. One of our favorite bands, The Avett Brothers, had sold out three nights at McMenamin’s Edgefield, in Troutdale, Oregon. It’s the site of an old “Poor Farm” from 100+ years back. They have a field where they host a slew of concerts I wish I could attend. We scored tickets to the first night:
Top left: Clean van, clean clothes. Top right: As we approached the concert we notice that not only had the McMenamins restored the Poor Farm, but they had purchased the adjacent county prison with hopes of adding more guest rooms. Looks, um… cozy. Bottom: I’m not allowed to lift more than 35 lbs. so Monica lifted up both kids for a better view.
Our plan had been to park in a State Park after the show and sleep in the van, but we wimped out and drove up the road to Vancouver, WA (not to be confused with the famous one in Canada). The next leg of our trip takes us as far north and west as we would go on this trip… the San Juan Islands.
If you go:
- There’s so much to do in and around Hood River. Here’s a few: take the Cascade train up to Parkdale and visit the brewpub there. Check out the busy industrial waterfront, lined with breweries and restaurants. Hike. Bike. Fish. You honestly can’t go wrong.
- But do get out into the hills and meadows. It’s beautiful country.
- While you’re there, pick stuff. There’s so many U-Pick places, for a few bucks you can get enough fruit for 10 pies.
- Visit the old highway tunnel near Mosier. We didn’t go there on this trip (because Monica’s clothes were all wet from her waterfall jump.)
- Days can be as warm as any town in summer, but nights are cool.
- Head over the bridge to White Salmon, WA, for amazing views from a handful of good restaurants.
- Oregon has this weird law where it’s illegal to pump your own gas (except after 6 in rural counties or some-such-nonsense). You’ll get FULL SERVICE and you’ll like it. Apparently they aren’t supposed to take tips either (tell that to the guy who gladly took a couple dollars from me).
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“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Check out Jon’s periodic column, “So How’s That New Book Coming?” at Creative Loafing – Tampa. His 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at email@example.com. Monica is a freelance grant writer, non-profit consultant, tour guide, and connoisseur of 70s rock lyrics.