The great roadtrip of May 2011

As I write this, I’m standing at the kitchen counter in our new apartment in Phoenix. Since we don’t have any furniture yet (apart from a bed and one chair from Ikea, which we take turns sitting on) I now do everything from this spot: email, Skype, eat, lean, sob quietly. My legs ache from standing around all day but the end is in sight because I think we found a nice couch at the weekend, and a possible table and chairs. Hopefully, there will be lots of sitting in my not-so-distant future.

We’ve been here a week today, and despite the distinct air of emptiness in the house, I feel settled already. I’ve met some really nice people and am more than happy to grow old here and never move house ever again for the rest of my life. Plus, the fact that the weather has been in the 30 degree range since we arrived ain’t bad either.

Our roadtrip from Oregon took nine days, and thanks to my nerdy little schedule, we made good time and were able to relax along the way. We went whale watching in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast, camped in the Redwoods State Park in Northern California, spent three days in San Francisco, drove on the Pacific Coast Highway and stayed in Pismo Beach, Huntington Beach and Palm Springs before we crossed the state line into Arizona. We mostly stayed in Motel 6s where we could as they’re very dog-friendly, as well as being cheap and clean. Milo was a little champ through all the travelling, apart from one or two days when he didn’t eat or got sick and the tick he picked up when we camped. So gross.

Here are some pictures from the trip for your delectation. Please enjoy.

This is where Milo spent most of our days without a peep out of him. Good dog.

Depoe Bay, where we saw (bits of) a grey whale (not pictured).

We also saw some big fat sea lions (pictured).

Local royal wedding humour. Fnar fnar.

One of the zillions of little towns we drove through on the 101. Can't remember the name.

Crossing the state line into California. Hide your fruit and veggies.

Our spot in Elk Prairie Campsite. We were a bit underprepared so we won't be doing that again for some time.

In case you didn't know, redwoods are quite tall.

Dinner. Giant marshmallows (me) and wieners (Eoin).

Like I said, redwoods are big. And old.

Our first glimpse of San Francisco. Such a pretty city. Stunning views from every street.

We arrived via the foggy Golden Gate Bridge. FYI there's a surprise $6 toll on the other side.

Gorgeous houses on Alamo Square. Wantsies one, please.

Alcatraz. One of the highlights of the trip for me. The audio tour is enthralling.

The beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea. Cutest little town ever. Clint Eastwood used to be mayor here, fact fans.

We stayed two nights in Huntington Beach, which has an off-leash dog beach. Milo couldn't believe his luck.

The only picture I have of Palm Springs. 'S okay though, cos I'm defo going back.

And that’s how we got here. Travelling in America so easy, with lots to see. Hopefully we’ll get to do more very soon.


Hood Riiiiiver

Saturday was an absolute scorcher here in Oregon (well, about 20 something degrees and sunny) so we decided to take advantage of the great outdoors. I’m so conscious that we’ll be back in the desert soon that I’m making a real effort to appreciate the trees, grass and running water while I can. We decided to go to Hood River, a little town in the Columbia River Gorge at the far side of Mount Hood, and spend the day walking/hiking. It’s about 60 miles away.

The journey was a breeze so we got there in under an hour and a half. I bought a pet barrier thingy last week for the car so Milo doesn’t need his crate anymore, he can roam around in the boot area with his toys. I think he appreciated the luxury, although he acted as nonchalant as ever.

After a little wander around the town (quaint, non?) we sat outside a cafe in the sun and had a quick lunch. A local Montessori school was holding some sort of a parade for Earth Day in the town square opposite so it was a bit hectic. Lots of dogs and people wanting to say hi to Milo. I didn’t get to snap a pic because my hands were full with sandwich and excited puppy.

After that, we went off in search of a walking trail which took us across a bridge…into Washington. Yup, we crossed a state line for the first time! It was uneventful. Over in Washington, we stopped at a little beach, which was accessed via a train line. Every fibre in my body told me walking across working train tracks was a bad idea, but apparently it was the only way.

About 10 minutes up the road we stopped again, this time at the foot of a little mountain, and decided to go for a longer hike. There was a little stream running alongside the track which Eoin dropped Milo in to cool off. He enjoyed it.

As we climbed further upwards the view got even prettier. See?

Once we got further away from the road I decided to let the dog off his leash and see what happened. He was really good! He ran around us but never strayed more than 20 feet away. If we stopped for a break, so did he. This bodes well for camping. I’m now confident he won’t leg it into the woods never to be seen again.

And just look what I spied on the way back to the car. Another snake, this time much bigger. I spotted it slithering across the road in the distance. So gross.

And so, after a quick ice cream stop, we set off back to Hillsboro, all of us pooped. That will probably be the last time I’ll be in the Columbia River Gorge since we’re leaving on Saturday. It’s so beautiful it reminds me of home. I’m sad to say goodbye, but excited to start the next chapter of this little adventure.

On the road again

Ah Oregon it’s been real, but it’s time to move on.

Starting on May 1st, we are officially making our way back down to Arizona, where we’ll be living for the next two years or so. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, because we were there for the first three months of the assignment, and because I was always conscious we’d be going back, I felt more settled there and keep referring to it as “home.” But on the other, my heart belongs to Portland and I’ll miss it something fierce. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to do all the things we planned while we were here, but what with the poxy weather, new pup, and Eoin’s long hours, we were restricted. I’ve made my peace with it though. And hey, maybe we’ll come back for a holiday? Two years is a long time.

Anyway, this move is going to be a little different to the last two (from Ireland to AZ and from AZ to here) mostly because we’re going it alone. Previously, The Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named had been our mammy and organised our apartment, cable, internet, phone, car and furniture – everything. This time, however, they’re only looking after the house, the rest is up to us. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but we’ve been so spoiled it seems a little scary, especially the part about arriving to an empty house with only an air bed to our names. Terror Town.

Still, I’m really looking forward to it, especially as everything is more fun now that we have Milo. Eoin has already purchased some new wheels (well, new to us) and we’ve decided that we’re going to drive down and make a holiday of it because he has some much-needed time off to take. This is the part I’ve been concentrating on and I’m so excited about it. Chandler is about 1,300 miles away and we’re giving ourselves ten days to get there, taking the scenic route.

It looks long, right? Basically we’re driving down almost the entire west coast of America. The weather should be nice, especially in Southern California, so we’re going to camp when we can and just spend time by the coast before we venture into the desert for the long haul. We plan on stopping in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast for whale watching, staying in the Redwood State Park, tasting wine in Napa Valley, spending a couple of days in San Francisco and then hitting the beaches around Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach, Malibu and Huntington Beach before heading inland to Palm Springs, and then finally “home.”

Not a bad start to the next chapter, eh?

If anyone has advice or recommendations for things we should see and do along the way, please, help a sista out.

Goonies for a day

As a child of the 80s, I can’t remember a time when The Goonies wasn’t one of my favourite fillums. And frankly, I don’t want to. It has everything you could possibly need in a family movie: a great cast, comedy, suspense, a bit of fear and even a hot older brother to fancy. Despite being made in 1985, it still pops up on TV occasionally and, if you ask me, totally holds its own. Everyone loves The Goonies, it’s a universal fact, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that it was set in Astoria, Oregon, less than two hours from where we’re currently living. It took longer than I expected (I’m laying the blame equally between the weather and Eoin here) but we eventually made it down there this weekend with one goal: to follow the goonie trail.

After a rocky start (the kennel I had Milo booked in to cancelled at the last minute and only The Most Expensive Kennel in America would accept him at such short notice) we eventually got on the road and pointed the car towards the Oregon coast. Now, I (stupidly) hadn’t looked up the route on the map, and didn’t realise it went through the mountains, so we got a bit of a fright when said road looked like this for much of the way:

Yeah, slippy. And more than a little scary considering we didn’t even have any chains with us. If I’d been driving we’d most certainly be in one of those drifts right now but thankfully I was passenging for the weekend. Anyway, we got to Astoria safely, and even though it was a bleak and cold February weekend, it has to be noted that it’s a really pretty little town, dominated by a dramatic suspension bridge. The perfect setting for a movie.

As you can see, there was still some snow on the ground which meant wandering around outside wasn’t exactly comfortable, especially when you’re the idiot who forgot to bring socks. Luckily we were there, I’d say, 30 seconds when we spotted this place:

It turns out that loads of movies have been filmed in or around Astoria, including Free Willy, Short Circuit, Kindergarten Cop and, er, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3. The above jail was actually in one of the opening scenes of The Goonies, where Jake Fratelli pretends to hang himself and then escapes with his terrifying mama who might put your hand in a blender if you’re not careful. They have handily illustrated it inside in case you forget.

Those other movies don’t get much of a look in at the Oregon Film Museum but The Goonies is well represented in the props department (there are only one and a half departments plus a gift shop). Remember this statue belonged to Mrs Walsh, Mikey and Brandon’s mum? Chunk knocked it over and its wiener popped off. Note here the wiener is intact.

There’s also a copy of the paper that got them all obsessed with Chester Copperpot and One Eyed Willy’s treasure in the first place.

And the infamous map. Well, a copy of it cos this one is in suspiciously good nick.

The doubloons…

And the skeleton key yoke.

They also have Data’s full costume, which I enjoyed imensley.

Entry to the museum was $4 and even though we had seen everything in under five minutes I’d call that money well spent. Directly across the street is the Flavel House Museum, a real working museum but in The Goonies it was where Mikey and Brand’s dad worked.

But the location I really wanted to see was the Walsh house where all the action kicks off. All of the scenes in the old restaurant and underground were shot in a Los Angeles studio, and the beach isn’t actually in Astoria itself, so the house was definitely the main attraction for me – and plenty of other people who visit every year. We bought a map in the museum and managed to locate it easily enough. This was our first view. Not great, as you can see. I was a bit disappointed and worried that that was it.

So I suggested that we try and get closer, which we did, thanks to Eoin’s mad navigational skillz and some cop on.

And even closer, because it turns out you’re totally allowed, if not encouraged. The house is a private residence as far as I know but the people who live in it, and their neighbours, are obviously seriously chill. I would love to know how many people they get hanging around outside annually. Lots, I bet, especially in summer.

And there it is, the real Walsh house from The Goonies as it looks today! The paint job is different, and the fence and gate are missing, but there’s no denying that’s it. I have to admit, I was embarrassingly excited to get so close. Eoin was mortified. When I was eight years old and watching the video over and over again at home I never imagined that I’d end up here. Funny where life takes you.

What an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Thank you, Astoria.

Portland, you’re famous!

I wrote a piece on why Portland is great for today’s Irish Times. Check it out hizzere.

Also, come visit me! I’m only in Oregon for another two and a half months, you know.