Travels by Katie

Other Portland tidbits:

Boutique shopping and thrift shopping was really good. Soccer stuff was happening but I avoided it all. Lots of adorable drinking water fountains on street corners (known as Benson Bubblers). Big water fountains such as the Skidmore Fountain. Beautiful rose garden. Amazing bookstore-Powell’s, that takes up an entire city block (and more) with a maze of rooms (I could have browsed for hours). Lots and lots of hippies. Lots. Also, lots of homeless, and I’m pretty sure I saw many people on drugs. (One of my favorite places I ate, Prasad, has a menu option that asks you to pay what you are able, because they believe that everyone should have access to healthy food.)

Overall, I was happy with our neighborhood. (Other areas, not as much). Good beer, veggie based food, coffee, boutiques, thrifting, cafes, tiny parks, lots of sculptures. Outside the city, the natural landscape is breathtaking- I’m glad I was able to take a car out of then city for a day.

Portland: food!

Vegan everything. So many good choices. Pictured: cappuccino art from Case Study Coffee, my (huge!) acai bowl from Pure (I seriously need to learn how to make these: it’s like a bowl of not as sweet sorbet for breakfast. And topped with granola and banana.), quinoa/chili/greens/avo bowl from Prasad, signature Voodoo Donut peaking out from the bag, vegan wings (of course) from the Veggie Grill.

I also ate: vegan chili and cornbread, a big pile of steamed kale + mashed potato/cauliflower + some sort of meat substitute, green juice, lots and lots of food truck lunches, and a huge piece of vegan coconut cake from Petunia’s Pies and Pastries that lasted for 2 days worth of desserts.

Portland: waterfalls!

I got a zipcar (seriously the best investment for driving on a trip) for an evening and headed out to the Columbia River Gorge. The closest waterfalls were the Latourell Falls, and the bonus was two for the price of one! Both falls were beautiful (plus, check out those hexagonal prisms behind falls #1). It was a nice hike with just enough elevation to get my blood pumping. We also stopped by the Vista House lookout on the drive back.

Beer! Portland, Oregon.

I didn’t over indulge in the local beer (mostly bc there were only a few actual breweries within walking distance) but I did visit 3 local breweries. I finally manage to hit up Deschutes last night. It was packed every time I tried to go, so eventually I went as early as I could (4 pm) and while the bar was still packed, I was able to snag a table. The sampler was underwhelming (who includes a shandy on a beer flight???) but the snifter of Black Butte I had for “dessert” made up for it.

I really enjoyed PINTS urban taproom beers. They had a really nice berliner weisse and a good variety of others that rotate on and off. The atmosphere was fantastic, and apparently they serve coffee in the am (it reminded me of my favorite coffee shop in NYC, the coffee-by-morning and cocktails-by-night Randolph), and the bartenders had some great stories.

I also tried out Tugboat brewing. Super dive bar feeling but really laid back and cozy. No flights, but their porter was bitter and strong. Good place to visit.

Sparkley bricks at Voodoo donut.

Sparkley bricks at Voodoo donut.

Denver, CO

During the limited free time that I had, I went geocaching… (see below for the cache container from a cache about Edgar Allen Poe and titled “The Cask of Amontillado”…. so clever… can you guess where that container was hiding? :) 

…I caught up with old friends… 

….watched some July 4th fireworks with other friends, old and new….

…tried out Zipcar for the first time and learned how much fun it is to drive a fun car (and enjoyed the 4th of July perks Zipcar left inside my BMW, free pop chips and American flag sunglasses). 

I also spent some time thrift shopping (my favorite was the thrift/consignment store with personalized service and PBR or champagne while you shopped, and the $20 DVF top I scored), visiting with Melissa and Paul’s two little ones, and watching the USA team lose during extra time in the match against Belgium while making new friends at the Breckenridge Brewery bar (that was fun, even though the USA team lost).  

Denver, CO

In Denver, I ate lots of yummy foods. Starting with the bloody mary at the airport bar (best way to ensure falling asleep the second the plane lifts into the air). 

The vegan wings I tried at THREE different restaurants (Watercourse foods- pictured, City O City- my favorite atmosphere of the three, and Yard House- my favorite wings of the three), proof that vegan does mean the same thing as healthy. 

The yummy room service desserts: 

The green juice and vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, everything-free “cheesy” enchiladas from the Nectar Cafe, a place I visited with an OEA friend that we both fell in love with. I think that their food is also raw, because the “tortillas” were dehydrated. It was so cool (the cafe doubled as a yoga studio) and so delicious. 

NEA RA (Denver, CO)

I was in Denver for the NEA RA (National Education Association Representative Assembly), the largest democratic body (meaning everyone gets a say) and the largest labor union in the world.  Go teachers!

I’ve been to the RA before in past summers, and it’s always a blast. I love the New Business items and hearing from teachers across the country and their state’s educational issues. I love seeing the NEA’s political associations and how that political climate changes (this was the first year that we FINALLY, as a body, voted to call for the removal of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education- something that has been brought up for approximately since he took the position).  

It’s funny, there are some things I hate about being a union representative and serving on the OEA board of directors (mostly the politicized speeches, networking, and the “biggest fight of our lives” rhetoric that we hear every year), but then there are some things I really love about it. I do think this is important work. I do think that the NEA (and the OEA) does good things for teachers and students.  And I really enjoy the people who I work with at these events. And so, while I’m glad to have my evenings and weekends free (as I’m going off the board when my term expires in August)… I’m kind of sad, too. 

Big Blue Bear at the Colorado Convention Center

Denver, CO

So, Colorado.  I still have a love affair with this state. Although I haven’t been back often since we moved away in 1998, I’ve been back enough to start to develop a new relationship with the state.

When we moved it, I loved it, I missed it, I romanticized it, it became this mythical, amazing place. Then I went back twice in the summer for 2008 for Melissa’s wedding, and I began to see a different side of Colorado. Or maybe, I just started to see Colorado as a regular state- a good one, a nice place to visit and probably to live, but it was no longer “OMG THE BEST PLACE EVER I MUST GO BACK” like it had been in my mind for all those years. 

I remember flying back in 1999 (and even in 2008, and 2010) and as we approached DIA, I craned my neck to peer out the window at the land below. I searched for places I knew (was that the horse racetrack? can I see familiar roads off in the distance?) and I recognized ranches down below (we don’t have ranches in Ohio, we have farms….). I don’t get that feeling anymore. Colorado is no longer the place of my youth. Colorado is, to me, hanging out at Melissa and Paul’s house. Colorado is wandering around Denver in search of lunch or a snack. Colorado is, still, the blue and white mountains in the distance, the flat plains where you can see for miles and miles and miles, the hot wind.  But those things no longer bring back a flood of nostalgia for me.