Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Travel Trauma: Sometimes you just gotta laugh!

Several times last week I remarked that I was looking forward to a relaxing getaway. Traveling by train, taking bus tours and walking to restaurants from a nice hotel was expected to be a welcome respite from the driving I had been doing. I had been dodging rush hour traffic and squinting into the setting sun… all in pursuit of fascinating reading for my travel article followers.

The weather looked fantastic and I had a long-time friend to accompany me on a travel writing adventure. We weren’t, however, expecting it to be this much of an adventure!

Traveling via Snail Train
It was our first time on this railroad. We weren’t traveling all that far… just a two-hour trip. Dinner was planned at our destination and then a relaxing sleep in a vintage B&B.  Our train was 20 minutes late, but that wasn’t unusual. I spent the time looking at the historical photos in the station and reminisced about my childhood travels from Oakland, California to Spokane, Washington.

We boarded the train, directed by two gruff conductors. We climbed the narrow staircase to our upper level seats and settled in. They were comfy. This would be a good little trip, we thought.

We weren’t too far along in the journey when it was announced that there was a one-car trail derailment ahead that might slow us down. The dispatcher would be letting our train know when we could progress. We sat at the station down the line waiting. Eventually we were on our way. That wasn’t too bad! We stopped several more times due to the derailment and then came to a sudden halt not all that far from our destination. The track had been cleared but there was “residual traffic” that needed to use the tracks first. Another 20-minute delay we were told. It turned out to be more like 45 minutes.

At that point we knew we’d miss our dinner at our destination so headed for the dining car. We were both pretty hungry and were looking forward to the warm dinner that we heard announced.

On the railroad, passengers are assigned dinner companions. All tables seat four people. We sat down as directed. A rather huge, World Wrestling Federation type man was assigned to be seated across from us. He pushed the table as he struggled to sit down and fill the two seats. He was unpleasant (I won’t go into details) and we were re-seated across from a nice mother-son couple visiting from Chicago. As we practiced our Italian (Mom didn’t speak English and was deaf), we dined on Swanson TV dinner-type fare on plastic plates. Our Chicago friends said the meals were the same all along the route, even the Salisbury Steak “specials.”

Ok, I made it look pretty good.
But it was very basic!
Our pocketbooks a bit lighter, we made it back to our seats and gazed out the window as the train started once again. We saw familiar buildings and realized we were pulling into our destination… three plus hours late.

We took the first taxi we saw. Enduring open windows and a cab wreaking of cigarette smoke, we made the short trip to our B&B. The innkeeper was very understanding of our need to head to our rooms and recover from our eventful day on the tracks. We enjoyed a good sleep, a nice breakfast and chat. Our cab to the next accommodation arrived ten minutes early so we grabbed our gear and bade our innkeeper adieu.

Cab Patience
Our driver, we soon learned, was deaf and could not speak. But that wasn’t an issue, he had directions and we could correspond via a tablet he kept on hand for that purpose. He was a bit tentative, so I thought he might be new on the job.

We reached the hotel and, since the cab ride had been pre-paid by our hosts (including the tip) we expected to make a quick exit. But, our driver was confused. Through hand signals we found out that he didn’t really understand his taxi company process. He was worried about how he would get paid. Ultimately he made a visible sigh of relief when I wrote on the pad that the taxi company would give him a ticket (that’s the way he would be paid) at the end of the day (I read this on his trip notes from the company).  We parted smiling. There are little things that happen and, alone, not worthy of writing about but wait… there’s more!

Wine Tasting Troubles
We entered the luxurious hotel lobby and stored our luggage. We’d be checking in to our rooms later that day after our wine tasting experience by motor coach. At the appointed meeting time a bus driver/guide didn’t appear in the lobby so we looked outside. The bus was there, waiting, and we climbed aboard.

We were off through the beautiful agricultural lands headed for tasting at three wineries and lunch at one of the most beautiful vineyards in the valley. The lunch was hosted and I had a certificate for two in my hot little hands.

The bus was fun and the driver/guide was amused by her own jokes, down-home stories and rambling, disjointed trivia. There were nine of us (the ninth being another driver who was riding along and helped by giving her directions.)

First Winery Waiting Game
The valley fog was lifting as we were directed to the tasting room. We heard there would be a tour and tasting. A classic car club filled the tasting room so we assumed the tour would be first. But as we strolled around looking at the displays, nothing happened… nada. I think I read every clipping and poster on the wall!

Our winery visit allowed for plenty of time to explore and take pictures.
A half-hour later… nada. Finally the car club finished up and left.  We were invited to taste wine and were given a brief history of the winery owners. The hostess asked how many would be tasting… nine. But wait! One of our participants lacked grey hair! She was asked for her ID. The 22 year old, traveling with her father, was from Russia. They didn’t realize she should have her passport with her so she was denied tastings. Kinda tough when that was what was scheduled for the whole day!

We had our tastings and returned to the bus. The sun was out, and the valley below was now visible… great photo ops. But wait a minute! There was an issue with closing the bus door. It would close and then immediately open (remember this, now). After several tries it closed OK and we were off. Our driver/guide exclaimed… "isn’t this relaxing?" Several of us rolled our eyes.

Second Winery Waiting Game
It was a cute place with great views, bee hives and resident chickens. We were welcomed to a tasting and then went outside to sit under shade umbrellas. Several people ordered pizzas (the driver/guide had said the pizzas were wonderful). Since we had a certificate for lunch at the last winery, we passed on the pizza. Again, we sat. We waited… nada. A half hour later the pizzas were ready and our hungry tour companions were told they could eat them on the bus as we were running late. The pizzas were wolfed down in record time.

The pizza was highly recommended.
We should have partaken.... had we known what was to come.
We were headed to our last stop when the driver took a brief detour so that our young Russian friend could get her passport. We all applauded that decision.

Third Winery – Our Lunch?
Our bus climbed the hill toward the winery. What views! But it looked rather crowded… it was a huge event. We arrived and milled about for a few minutes. Soon a bubbly young woman came running toward us saying she’d been asked to leave the tasting room to take care of our group. I mentioned our lunch certificate and she told us, reluctantly, that our short time there and the crowded conditions wouldn’t permit us time for lunch.

She gave us a marvelous tour and tasting. We were hungry but the wine soothed our nerves and our time there made us want to return. She took a tough situation and made it work. We were impressed.

The wine and tour helped us forget that we were missing lunch.
We boarded the bus and headed back to be dropped off at our hotel, an hour and a half late. We were very hungry (remember, no lunch?) and were looking forward to dinner just down the street.

Give Us Your Credit Card
We stepped up to the registration desk at the hotel. The very professional staff checked us in. There was no mention of my room being covered by our host (as promised). I inquired and the desk staff couldn’t find any notation of that agreement. At that point, our trip had consisted of one problem after another. We started to laugh. What can you do?

I gave them our host’s phone number and they were certain things would be worked out. And after some re-doing of paperwork, it was.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner, nice accommodations and breakfast the next morning. We were relaxed and ready for a second bus tour… this one would take in the natural beauty of the area. We were certain nothing else could possibly go wrong.

Door Dilemmas
Our tour bus driver/guide met us on time at the hotel and we noticed our Russian friends would be joining us too. The driver was actually the company manager and had heard about our mishap the previous day. It was another glorious sunny day as we headed out into the countryside. We felt much better.

His educational narrative was excellent and his demeanor, professional. He knew where he was going and let us know what was coming up. Our first stop included a brief hike, a stunning waterfall and a stop at the snack bar to pick up a sandwich.

Next, he said, we’d pull into a vista point to see another waterfall. We snapped a few photos and climbed back onto the bus. And then this glorious day fell apart.

The bus door wouldn’t close after many, many tries. We couldn’t leave! Our driver/guide quickly problem-solved the issue. But no one had cell phone signals so the poor guy hitch-hiked back to the waterfall park to make his calls… a mechanic for the bus and a taxi to the hotel for us.

Quite awhile later a ranger showed up with our driver/guide and he updated us on everything. He gave the door one last try and found that he could close it but that he wouldn’t be able to open it again without the same problem happening. He offered to get us back to the hotel if we could climb in and out via the front cab door. And we did.

A passenger throws up her hands in disbelief as the bus develops mechanical problems.
What's next?
We made it back. He cancelled the taxi and we were in time for our train trip home. We missed seeing two of the scheduled sights from the bus tour but were happy when we got to the train station and found our train would be on time.

Happy Return
Our train trip home went by quickly (as scheduled) and we toasted the adventure with some wine from the pizza debacle winery we visited on the first day. And, once we relaxed, we thought we’d like to return and see some of the sights we missed… and experience that winery lunch too!

Note: The names of the destination and those involved in the mishaps have been omitted to avoid embarrassing the innocent!

Monday, September 26, 2016

President Obama Signs NATIVE Act - A Boost to Tribal Tourism

President Barack Obama signed S. 1579, the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act Friday.  The Act requires the Departments of Commerce, the Interior, and other Federal agencies with recreational travel or tourism functions to update their management plans and tourism initiatives to include Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

Sherry L. Rupert, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) Board President, said "this is an incredibly important day for Indian Country tourism, the beginning of an important collaboration between the federal, tribal and nonprofit sectors to strengthen and grow cultural heritage tourism in the U.S.  We thank the President for signing the bill, and Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) for shepherding the legislation through Congress."

Tourism in the United States and in Indian Country is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of U.S. economic development and job creation.  International tourism to Indian Country grew 181% from 2007 to 2015, resulting in $8.6 billion in direct spending, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures.

"This law will empower native communities to tell their own stories and build their own economic opportunities, said Senator Brian Schatz. "Visitors are increasingly seeking out a more authentic and historically rich travel experience, and there is nothing more authentic and unique than the cultural tourism experience our native communities provide."

"This is a good, common-sense bill that will have a real impact in tribal communities throughout the country, including the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations in South Dakota," said Senator John Thune.

The NATIVE Act will require federal agencies with tourism assets and responsibilities to include tribes and native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning. It will also provide American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities with access to resources and technical assistance needed to build sustainable recreational and cultural travel and tourism infrastructure and capacity in order to spur economic development and create good jobs.

Joining the originators of the bill, Senator Schatz, and Senator Thune, the bipartisan co-sponsors of the NATIVE Act in the Senate were Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).  The bill passed the Senate in June. 

Joining Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla) in House co-sponsorship were Dina Titus (D-NV), Don Young (R-Alaska), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Betty McCullum (D-Minn.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Jared Huffman (D-Cal.).  The bill passed the House last week. 

"The NATIVE Act is a strong piece of legislation that will drive economic growth not only in Native lands and cultural attractions, but also for communities in every corner of the country," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "We are pleased to see our government prioritize a measure to expand travel and tourism promotion and attract more international visitors, whose trips often have a tremendous positive ripple effect on the surrounding local economy."

Supporters of the legislation included U.S. Travel Association, American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association, Southeast Tourism Society, Western States Tourism Policy Council, National Congress of American Indians, Alaska Federation of Natives, and the Native Enterprise Initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Support also came from tribes and tribal coalitions around the U.S, including the Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes. Bill Anoutubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, said he wished to thank the legislative sponsors, especially Congressman Markwayne Mullin, for the opportunity to work more closely with federal agencies on tourism.  "The NATIVE Act will help Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation continue to strengthen its robust tourism efforts, and for many other tribes across Indian Country, it will create essential relationships with our federal partners and links to audiences across the U.S. and the globe."   

Source: AIANTA Press Release

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Head for Mt. Rainier: The Geocache Hunt is On!

Visit Rainier released the fourth and final series of its Centennial GeoTour on September 16. The organization partnered with Mt. Rainier National Park and the Washington State Geocaching Association to create a 100-cache educational GeoTour. These geocaches have been placed around Mt. Rainier National Park and its gateway communities to celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service. 

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocaches hidden at that location. Each cache contains a code word that participants record in a passport downloadable on VisitRainier.com

When a passport is completed, participants mail it in for a trackable pathtag. If a player logs all 100 caches, they will receive a commemorative gold Centennial Geocoin.

Check their website and learn how you can get started in the hunt today!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism: Opportunities to Explore Native Life and Lands

I recently had the pleasure of attending the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism (AIANTA) Association national conference in Washington State. I came away with news, information and experiences that will inform and entice travelers who love exploring history, culture and natural beauty. Native tourism opportunities are growing, native hospitality is welcoming and the access visitors have to native lands and people is much more open that you might realize.

Tulalip Resort Casino Surprises
As you drive north of Seattle you’ll see a hotel and casino complex at Tulalip, just off I-5. If you aren’t a gambler you might pass it by. At least that is what I always did. Attending the AIANTA conference at the Tulalip Casino Resort conference center opened my eyes to the beauty of the hotel, the impeccable service and the history of the Tulalip tribes.

As you arrive at this AAA Four Diamond hotel, you’ll see a large Native canoe, a water feature. Inside the lobby you are greeted by two-story high locally carved totems. Throughout the luxurious hotel you will find Northwest Coast Salish artwork and textures. The resort has undergone a recent renovation. The rooms have state of the art electronics, amazingly comfortable beds and a frequently lauded shower with three adjustable heads.

Yes, there are modern comforts, but the hospitality is markedly Native. The Tulalip Tribes is a federally recognized Indian tribe located on the Tulalip Reservation, which includes the resort-casino. Reservation boundaries set by the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855 gave a permanent home to the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, and related tribes.

We dined on locally sourced, Native inspired foods… salmon, berries, corn, beans and squash (the three sisters). All were prepared with attention to detail and with interesting sauces and seasonings.

Close by is the The Hibulb Cultural Center of the Tulalip Tribes, a beautiful center with full-sized longhouse and interactive displays. It was the first Tribal facility certified by the state of Washington. Also within walking distance of the hotel is great shopping – The Seattle Premium Outlets.
Learn about the people of the Tulalip Tribe
at the Hibulb Cultural Center
I’ll be writing more about this beautiful hotel, the restaurants and the Tulalip people in upcoming articles. I was impressed and I am sure you will be too. The lobby art, alone, is worth a visit next time you are in the area.

Discovering Native Country – Where to Start
At the conference Native tourism leaders from across the United States came together to share and learn. We heard that international visitors, especially those from China, want to experience authentic America.

So where should the average traveler with a desire to experience Native culture and land start? You might get some ideas from exploring this years’ AIANTA Destination Award Winners.

The Tribal Destination of the Year was awarded to Icy Strait Point, the Huna Totem Corporation. Icy Strait Point is Alaska Native owned-and-operated, with all profits directly supporting the community of Hoonah, Alaska’s largest Native Tlingit village. You may have heard of this area from the TV reality series, Alaskan Bush People. And, by the way, the Browns don’t live in the bush year ‘round!
Icy Strait Point offers small ship whale
watching excursions. (Courtesy: Icy Strait Point)
Other Icy Strait Point tours take you
in search of bears. (Courtesy: Icy Strait Point)
Icy Strait Point is a frequent stop for cruise ships and now that they have a dock, even more visitors are stepping ashore to choose from 20 + tours and experiences. You’ll visit a 1912 salmon cannery and museum, nature trails, and even a beach. Chichagof Island is home to more brown bears than humans, eagles soar overhead and whales are regularly seen just offshore. You can take an ATV trip into the rain forest or soar above it via ziprider. It’s an exciting place that is truly Alaskan. I’d recommend putting it on your itinerary when cruising Alaska.

Not all Puye Cliffs tours
require ladder climbing but
this one did!
The Best Cultural Experience was awarded to Puye Cliffs, on the Pueblo of Santa Clara just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Your tour guide at Puye will be from the Pueblo, a great way to meet a Native person with ancestors who may have lived in the dwellings you are exploring.

Puye Cliffs was home to 1,500 Puebloans who lived, farmed and hunted game there from the 900s to 1580 A.D.

You can walk along the cliff and cave dwellings and take a ladder down into a kiva. The welcome building and small museum is housed in an original Harvey House. But the most enjoyable part for me was listening to the personal stories of the guides as they described life at Puye Cliffs and pointed out things we might have overlooked. And the view of the high desert from the top? Amazing.

Puye Cliffs offers special events too. October 15th is their next Earth and Sky Weekend. Because the site is on the Pueblo, you might experience closures for ceremonial reasons (or even dangerous weather) so it is good to call ahead and read their website.

Light streams into the art-filled
lobby at the Buffalo Thunder Resort.
The stained glass depicts Pueblo dancers.
Last but not least, the award for Excellence in Customer Service was awarded to Tina Whitegeese representing Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort, also north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve had the pleasure of staying at Buffalo Thunder, on the Pueblo of Pojoaque. It’s a Native art-filled hotel with more than 400 pieces of pottery, art, glasswork and sculptures. In addition, every room offers hand-designed furnishings and work by local artists, including Pueblo of Pojoaque Former Governor George Rivera.

It’s a beautiful pueblo-inspired resort with high desert views. One evening as we enjoyed cocktails on an open rooftop, we watched a storm come in from the west. Looking out over the desert expanse was a beautiful and uniquely New Mexican experience.

You’ll have plenty to do while you’re there. The golf course, full service spa, a variety of restaurants and, of course the casino, draw visitors. But what you’ll remember are the people and the Native hospitality.

The Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act
While at the conference we heard good news for Native tourism. The Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act (S. 1579) had passed both the House and Senate.

The bill allows tribal communities to be included in federal agencies’ tourism management programs. Sherry L. Rupert, AIANTA Board President announced, “This legislation will forever impact the ability of our nation’s tribes to promote their true and authentic selves through tourism. It will strengthen Indian Country economic development, cultural sustainability and accelerate the progress tribes have made in international and domestic tourism.”

According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, overseas travelers who visit Indian country stay in the United States longer, visit more cities and states, use more domestic travel options, and visit more National Parks, small towns, museums, and cultural and ethnic heritage sites in comparison to all other overseas visitors.
When it comes right down to it, Native people
and their warm hospitality is what makes a visitor's experience.
These people from as far away as Alaska made my
AIANTA conference experience memorable.

Native Tourism Resources
AIANTA Members – Describes Native tourism opportunities across the U.S. with links to their websites.
Native America Travel – AIANTA website for visitors

Monday, September 19, 2016

Safe Harbor: Fantastic Seafood Near Jacksonville, Florida

If you want fresh seafood right off the boats, and dockside informal dining, Jacksonville’s Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant is for you. On each visit to Jacksonville located in north Florida on the Atlantic coast, I yearn for a meal at Safe Harbor in Mayport. The shrimp is brought in fresh each day and you have a great chance of seeing some unloaded.

Dining at Safe Harbor
When you enter the restaurant you’ll see long cases of seafood, a deli case and lots of things to help you prepare your local seafood meal. But the real draw for our family is ordering a meal off the huge chalkboard at the back of the restaurant. You can get a shrimp basket, have a fish filet prepared to your order, or purchase a simple sandwich. Meals are accompanied by excellent cold slaw and fries. Add in a hush puppy and you’ve got a traditional southern meal.

Once you order, you can select a table on the covered dock, under an umbrella in the front of the restaurant or dine indoors and watch the fish market activities.

When I visited, my son and I enjoyed a shrimp basket, my daughter in law had a crab cake and my granddaughters opted for a familiar hot dog and French fries. You can add a soft drink, beer or wine to your meal and enjoy an afternoon watching the fishing boats.  Gambling boats and charter boats come and go. Pelicans may land nearby and the ever-present gulls fly low looking for hand-outs from the boats.

Enjoying the Area
Mayport is located on the St. John’s River near the Mayport Naval Station. There are some small white sand beaches along the road to Mayport where the children can play and you can enjoy a picnic. Often you’ll see marsh birds and kayakers enjoying the shallow inlet waters.

Before You Leave
Before you leave Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant, take a walk along the docks and have a look at the activity on the fishing boats. Check out the fishing charter businesses. You may want to return and do your own fishing. You can join the group on The Majesty or the Mayport Princess.

The restaurant and fish market is well-stocked with interesting things that will help you replicate a southern seafood meal at home. I purchased some breading mix and tartar sauce, both made in the South. Take home some seafood from Safe Harbor.

Oh yes, and they have some great t-shirts too!

More Information
Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant
4378 Ocean St. Unit 3
Mayport, Fl 32233

They also have a restaurant at Jacksonville Beach.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Noteworthy Restrooms: Movie Star Mirrors at the Hotel deLuxe Portland

I haven’t featured a noteworthy restroom lately. I’ve run into beautifully decorated women’s rooms but nothing that captured my attention like the women’s room at Hotel deLuxe.
The glitz and glamour of Hollywood doesn’t stop at the beautiful lobby of Portland’s Hotel deLuxe. You’ll want to explore each and every room of this beautifully renovated gem.
As you walk up the stairs to the Hotel deLuxe lobby,
you'll be transported back to the elegant heydays of Hollywood.
Hotel deLuxe was once Portland’s Hotel Mallory, built in the early 1900’s. When you read the hotel’s back story you’ll find out that even then it was a luxurious retreat: the Crystal Room (now the Screening Room) was a ballroom featuring Grand Piano and orchestra pit. In its previous life, the Green Room was a billiard room furnished with a pool table, crystal decanters of spirits and fine cigars. Across the lobby, ladies could socialize privately in the Lady’s Parlor, which is now the Editing Room.

These stunning mirrors accenting the pink marble caught my eye.
The hotel’s décor takes its influences from Art Moderne, and the Art Deco movement that ignited during Paris’ 1925 World Fair. It was renovated and re-opened in 2006.

The women’s room just off the lobby is stunning because of the glitzy metal and glass mirrors reminiscent of the 1920’s and ‘30’s.  The restroom is done in beautiful pink and white marble but the mirrors are what caught my eye.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Car is King and the Maryhill Washington Arts Festival: October 1st and 2nd

Celebrate Sam Hill’s love of roads, the automobile, and the arts October 1 & 2, 2016 during Car is King Weekend and the Maryhill Arts Festival. This free, two-day celebration of creativity in all its forms includes a classic car show, artist booths, food vendors, and hands-on art, an open drive on the historic Maryhill Loops Road, and a timed hill climb featuring vintage sports cars.   

All activities are free on the grounds of Maryhill Museum of Art, unless otherwise noted.


Concours de Maryhill | 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Columbia River Highway as the car show features autos 1945 and older. The day concludes with an awards presentation and catered dinner at 4 p.m. FREE on museum grounds for spectators. Organized by Goldendale Motorsports Association. For more info: http://www.goldendalemotorsports.org/

Maryhill Arts Festival | 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Browse and shop booths featuring Northwest artists working in a variety of media, including painting, glass art, jewelry, woodworking, ceramics and more. FREE on museum grounds.

Art Under the Tent | 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Kids of all ages can explore their creativity with a variety of hands-on art activities. FREE on the museum grounds.

Drive the Maryhill Loops Road | Noon to 2 p.m.
Take a spin past the beautiful scenery and through the historic road’s eight hairpin curves. FREE on the historic Maryhill Loops Road, located just east of US 97 off of State Route 14.

Family Fun: Veggie Car Races | 1 to 3 p.m.
Children can put their ingenuity to work transforming humble veggies into fantastically engineered cars and race them on a 12 foot ramp for thrills and chills. Kids of all ages are invited to participate in this fun outdoor activity. FREE on the museum grounds.

Dining | 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Several locally operated food vendors will be on-site – Bake My Day during the day and Bob’s Texas T-Bone for dinner – as well as Loïe’s: The Museum Café inside Maryhill Museum of Art.

Maryhill Loops Hill Climb | 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Vintage sports cars from the 1930s to 1960s race singly in a three-mile timed climb up the historic Maryhill Loops Road. FREE for spectators viewing the race from the Highway 97 Overlook and from designated viewpoints along the route.

Organized by the Maryhill Loops Vintage Hill Climb Association; only their approved cars and drivers will be competing. This program is assisted by members of the Tri-Cities Strictly British Motor Club; Yakima Valley Sports Car Club and Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts. For Entry Form or Information contact Starke Shelby at 206-230-0203. or starke@nwinsctr-mi.com

Maryhill Arts Festival | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Browse and shop booths featuring Northwest artists working in a variety of media, including painting, glass art, jewelry, woodworking, ceramics and more. FREE on museum grounds.

Art Under the Tent | 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Kids of all ages can explore their creativity with a variety of hands-on art activities. FREE on the museum grounds.

Dining | 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Visit Loïe’s: The Museum Café inside Maryhill Museum of Art.
Music | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Enjoy the Americana and bluegrass sounds of The Ryders from Seattle. (There will be breaks throughout the day.)

Car is King Weekend and the Maryhill Arts Festival is sponsored by the Goldendale Motor Sports Association, Maryhill Loops Vintage Hill Climb Association, Maryhill Museum of Art, Tri-Cities Strictly British Motor Club, and Yakima Valley Sports Car Club.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

First Annual Vancouver, WA Dining Month Announced: October it's Dine the Couve

I have found some great places to dine in Vancouver, just across the bridge from Portland, Oregon. Among my favs are Willem’s on Main, La Bottega and Niche Wine Bar. They are all offering some wonderful deals during October during Dine the Couve.

Niche Wine Bar on Main
Fine Wines, Small Plates and More
This October, Visit Vancouver USA will present its first annual dining month, Dine the Couve, with 19 participating restaurants, breweries and tasting rooms. Original Vancouver USA eateries will serve three items for $23 (alongside regular menu offerings), while breweries and tasting rooms will have $3 drink specials for the entire month.

“Vancouver USA’s restaurant and brewery scene continues to grow at a rapid pace, providing unique destination assets for both residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Kim Bennett, president and CEO of Visit Vancouver USA. “Dine the Couve is a celebration of what makes our local culinary and brew scene stand out — quality, affordability and a collaborative spirit.”

All participating restaurants will provide diners with a fixed, three-part menu, which may include any combination of soup, salad, appetizer, entree, dessert or craft beverage.
Enjoy the view from Warehouse '23

Participating restaurants include:
          Beaches Restaurant
          Frontier Public House
          Gray’s at the Park
          The Grocery Cocktail & Social
          Heathen Feral Public House
          Jorge’s Tequila Factory
          La Bottega
          Main Event Sports Grill - Downtown
          Niche Wine Bar & Bistro
          Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro
          WareHouse ‘23
          Willem’s on Main

Participating breweries and tasting rooms include:
          Doomsday Brewing Safe House
          Loowit Brewing
          Old Ivy Taproom
          Thirsty Sasquatch
          Trap Door Brewing
          Trusty Brewing

Just Added: Veraison Wine is offering a 3 for $23 deal that includes two glasses of wine and charcuterie board

Menus for Dine the Couve will be posted online by Oct. 1 at VisitVancouverUSA.com/DineTheCouve. Use #DineTheCouve to share dining experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Vancouver Washington Murals: An Illustrated Walk Through History

Total disclaimer here. I live in Vancouver, Washington. I love the history, the vibrant community and the brightly colored murals. I thought I had seen them all until I did a mapped mural walk with the All Weather Walkers. What I discovered, were more murals, more local history and a great walk on a sunny September day.

The club was set up in the parking lot across from the Columbian Newspaper building. Of course that was my first surprise. I had never seen the newspaper mural! A paperboy delivers his papers as a dog runs behind him. In the background is the history of the newspaper that started out as the Vancouver Columbian.

We walked through Downtown, through Uptown, crisscrossed the route so we wouldn’t miss one (I still did!) and returned to the starting point via the somber Remembrance Wall chronicling the wars and contributions by civilians on the home front. Vancouver was the site of a huge WWII shipyard.

As I walked, I realized that Vancouver is one of those cities where you can walk around downtown feeling safe. New construction and an influx of businesses such as brew pubs adds to the positive vibe of the city.

I looked beyond the grape vines at Cellar 55 and saw, for the first time, a mural celebrating Columbia River life… salmon, huge sturgeon below the water and busy barges above. I’d been to Cellar 55 but always was inside and missed this piece of art.

I rounded another corner and, only because I had a route map, found a delicate painting of dancers practicing at the Barre, a Degas look-alike on the side of a building housing a dance studio.

Another find was on the side of the Leupke Florist building. The Leupke family no longer has a flower shop there but there is good news. A developer purchased the art deco building and plans to revitalize the Luepke building and the florist shop and turn the area into “Luepke Station,” a downtown area with a coffee shop, wine bar or tap room and upscale eatery eventually rounding out the building. A bit of Vancouver history will be saved.

My favorite murals were no surprise. I’ve studied their detail before as I visited downtown.  The Columbia River triptych at 115 W. 7th St. Vancouver, WA has a little  bit of history, a colorful depiction of Columbia River boat traffic and a fanciful mural of recreation on the building. What I enjoy looking at are the details… how the artists incorporated aspects of the building like windows and pipes into the art.
I love how the window became a bird!

The murals continue to be painted. The Clark County Mural Society website provides the history, a map of the murals and news on future murals and opportunities for artists.

And it all started with a desire to draw people to central Vancouver. The founders talked about a small town in British Columbia, Canada which had revived its economic fortunes after the local mill downsized by painting murals on every available downtown wall. That town was, and is, Chemainus. Murals have an important role in drawing people to Vancouver’s vibrant downtown and Arts District today.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Open Tandoor Restaurant on N. Williams - Grand Opening Slated for September 10th and 11th

Portland’s newest Indian restaurant, Open Tandoor, will celebrate its Grand Opening Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, September 10-11, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you love east Indian food, as I do, you are in for a treat.

Ten percent of weekend sales will benefit The Portland Kitchen, a local non-profit that uses food and cooking to change the lives of underserved youth.

 “As we open our doors in the North Portland community, we are thrilled to support this creative and resourceful organization that teaches lifelong skills,” said Navi Kang, Open Tandoor co-owner. “This summer, our chef Kinder Gill taught a class on spices for The Portland Kitchen students and was impressed with their commitment and enthusiasm for learning.”

Located at 4311 North Williams at the corner of North Skidmore, Open Tandoor will feature Indian cuisine inspired by the food mecca of Chef Kinder Gill’s native Punjab and her family’s traditional recipes. Open Tandoor is a fine-casual Indian kitchen using freshly blended spices and traditional Indian cooking techniques. Each dish is perfectly crafted from original recipes passed down from generation to generation.
The restaurant will feature dishes such as Channa Masala, Daal, Saag Paneer, Lamb Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, Kebabs, Naan Bites with Housemade Dipping Sauce and Naan Wraps. All dishes will feature hand selected, freshly ground spices and be prepared without corn, soy, food coloring or MSG. There will be vegan, gluten free and vegetarian options.

After two years as the head chef and owner of the popular Portland Masala food cart in downtown Portland, Kinder Gill and her co-owner Navi Kang found the perfect location for a brick-and-mortar location and renamed it Open Tandoor. This new name brings attention to the two clay tandoor ovens, fully visible to customers, who will be treated to hot naan bread and long skewers of kebabs cooked to order in the 500-degree open ovens. Designed by veteran restaurant designer Mark Annen of Annen Architecture and Design, the new space will seat 47 inside and feature bright colors inspired by spice routes and the exotic, aromatic profiles of Kinder’s unique blends of hand-ground whole spices. Large roll-up glass doors will open to the sidewalk with 42 outdoor seats. Warm, natural woods will be used for tables and eating counters.

Open Tandoor will offer counter service and beverages, including hand-crafted cocktails, beers (both Indian and local), wines and non-alcoholic drinks, such as Mango Lassi, smoothies made to order, sodas and a signature Indian spiced tea. Open Tandoor believes in a transparent food system, and when possible, will source ingredients locally, such as lamb from SuDan Farms in Canby, red lentils and garbanzo beans from Bob’s Red Mill as well as local spirits, beer and wine.

For more opening details, please visit their website at opentandoor.com and follow on Facebook at @opentandoorpdx and Twitter and Instagram at @opentandoor.

The restaurant will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.