We chose to take the 101 up to Portland and in doing so, we were rewarded with: lengthy views of the ocean, a glimpse of a dolphin or whale in the ocean, redwood forest hugging the road, rivers around almost every bend in the road, golden bear statues flanking each end of an bridge, crossing over many bridges, having our gas pumped for us (so weird! Devin surprised the attendant by tipping him), and finally, a stop to the Tillamook Cheese Factory!

Unfortunately, we arrived at the Tillamook Cheese Factory about 40 minutes before it closed, so we didn’t see very many workers or cheese on our self-guided tour. But the benefit of arriving so late in the day meant that there were no tourists in my way through the sample line! The samples were: squeaky cheese curds, sharp cheddar, garlic white cheddar, and smoked white cheddar.

If we ever visited Portland, I knew I had to go to Voodoo Doughtnuts, and now I had my chance! Having heard of the long lines at Voodoo Doughnut’s main location, I was thrilled to find out we were staying walking distance to Voodoo Doughnuts Too, a smaller and much less-crowded location that serves the same quirky doughnuts.

The Voodoo Doll was almost too cute to eat! Biting into it revealed red raspberry jelly “blood”. It was really sweet and the jelly just pushed the sweetness over the top. I really needed some milk to cut through all the sugar.

Does the bacon look dry to you? Because it was. But considering the alternative would be a really greasy doughnut, I’d rather have the dry bacon because it was delicious. The bacon helped balance out the incredible sweetness of the maple frosting of this Bacon Maple Bar.

Our final doughnut, the Texas Challenge, took us several hours to eat. It is one giant glazed doughnut equivalent to 6 regular-size glazed doughnuts. So we had it sitting in its bag and throughout the day, we’d each take bites. In the end, we couldn’t finish it! It was too much doughnut. This one trip to Voodoo Doughnuts fulfilled our capacity for doughnuts for the entire year. We don’t need anymore doughnuts this year.

As we walked around Portland, we saw these strange fountains along the sidewalk. Sometimes they were in groups of 2 or 4 or just alone. After some research, we learned that these are public drinking fountains! I didn’t actually drink from any of them.

We walked across the Steel Bridge to explore the Pearl District and find dinner.

The Steel Bridge is the only double-deck bridge with independent lifts in the world, which means the upper and lowers decks can be lifted independent of each other without interfering with one another.

This is the view of the Fremont Bridge from the Steel Bridge.

We visited Powell’s City of Books, which is the headquarters of the Powell’s Books company. Powell’s City of Books occupies a full city block, with the technical books filling another bookstore across the street! This place was awesome! It is filled with new and used books for sale and I loved how all the shelves had hand-written book recommendations by employees and visitors! So even though it was massive, there was a personal touch on every shelf.

We located Rogue Brewery, where I had a Chipotle Ale and Devin had a Chatoe Good Chit Pilsner. My Chipotle Ale wasn’t spicy, but had a smoky flavor to it. It went great with the bowl of chili I had!

Our final day in Oregon was, surprise(!), drizzly! And I still didn’t have a jacket! So even with double layers, I wore Devin’s sweater, which I later had to take off because we walked up an enormous hill to get to the International Rose Test Garden. The garden was established during World War I to preserve the different types of roses from the devastation in Europe. I had no idea roses could look so differently from each other, from the way the petals were shaped, to the way the petals spread from the center, and even the way they grew on the stalks. There were some varieties that didn’t even resemble roses! In the end, there were so many roses here that all the colors and shapes just started to blend together in our minds and we couldn’t make out a difference between them. That’s when we determined it was time to seek out lunch!

Thanks to Yelp, we found this great deli called Elephants Delicatessen, which was a veritable delicatessen! It was packed inside and it was immediately clear why: there were pastries and cheeses on display, cold salads being plated, hot soups and paninis made to order to comfort diners from the drizzle outside, ovens baking pizzas, as well as a bar serving cucumber margaritas! While we waited for my Turkey Reuben and Devin’s Ham & Cheese Croissant, we browsed the gelatos in the freezer cases, the flavored salts, and sampled some gorgonzola topped with honey as well as some granola. There was definitely a friendly neighborhood feel to the space, thanks to the communal tables and the dining process, which required ordering at your chosen station, paying at the front register, then clearing your own table, making sure to recycle. My Turkey Reuben had a bit too much sauerkraut compared to the amount of turkey, but the rye bread was warm and toasty, and the Swiss cheese balanced the tang of the Russian dressing, which fueled me for our 3-hour drive to Seattle!


Things we loved about Portland: small downtown, not overcrowded downtown, cold (Devin), many bicyclists, walking distance to everything, public transportation seems to run all day and all night, soccer team, seems like a big town rather than a small city, Elephants Delicatessen, hills and trees

Things we did not love about Portland: cold (me), public transportation runs loudly through the night, hipsters, freeway speed is 50 MPH


Our good friend moved to Arcata, CA to attend Humboldt State University, so we figured, what better time than now to travel the land beyond the San Francisco area? Devin and I travel to the Bay Area about once a year to see my family and the most north we’ve gone together is to Napa, CA. Arcata is about four hours north of San Francisco, so with a 12-hour drive ahead of us, naturally we left at 4AM!

Leaving early turned out to be great because we made it through Los Angeles and to the Grapevine before traffic began. It was smooth sailing and not too unpleasant, thanks to the stock of podcasts we listen to:

Doug Loves Movies

Hollywood Babble-On

NPR’s Car Talk

Adam Carolla

This American Life

Once we crossed the San Rafael Bridge, we were on the 101, which was beautiful, but could  be painstakingly slow going at times since we had to slow down to 30 MPH at times to go through small towns or really sharp turns through the forest.

Devin loved Arcata immediately and I agreed that the scenery was beautiful on our drive up and driving past the calm water of Arcata Bay. The houses were really cute and there were trees everywhere. Devin would eventually fall even more in love with Arcata as we awoke to foggy mornings, which turned into cloudy and cold days. Any appreciation I had for Arcata began to drastically dwindle when I realized I’d forgotten to bring a jacket.

We visited the Arcata North County Fair, which was much smaller than the San Diego and Orange County Fairs that I’m used to! The vendors surrounded Arcata Plaza, with food vendors in the middle of the square. We bought some heirloom tomatoes (my first!) at the Arcata Farmer’s Market right next to the fair.

For lunch, we stopped at Arcata Pizza & Deli, or APD, as the locals call it. I had a huge Pastrami Reuben Sandwich on hearty slices of rye. You can see that the rye was buttered and grilled until crispy. There was a generous portion of tangy sauerkraut with a more generous helping of pastrami. Hidden inside was melted Swiss cheese and with the creamy thousand island dressing, this sandwich was delicious.

Between the three of us, we shared a basket of fries, which was huge! The fries were crisp and properly salted, the perfect accompaniment to my Reuben sandwich.

For dessert later that night, we went to Arcata Scoop, which is in a cute, Robin’s egg blue-colored converted house. I got a scoop of vanilla honey lavender, which was creamy, but I didn’t enjoy the tough pieces of lavender. Inside the ice cream shop was a large four-person rocking booth with wooden giraffes as the posts!

We went to the Arcata Community Forest for a brisk morning hike before heading to Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka.

We conveniently parked on campus and the trail head started right behind the dorms. Tall redwood trees provided shade as we walked alongside a stream. Some redwood tree trunks were hallowed out by forces of nature, so that a person could crawl inside. There were twisting vines and branches creating beautiful canopies that the sunlight sparkled through. On our leisurely walk through the forest, we saw many of these banana slugs!

The last place on my list of required places to visit while in Arcata was Los Bagels, which happened to be right across the street from Arcata Scoop.

Los Bagels smelled delicious from the moment we stepped inside. There were fresh bagels baking and a pastry case, along with shelves of jalapeno jelly, ceramic mugs, and Slug Slime for sale. I got a Sushi Bagel on a toasted multi-cultural bagel. The cream cheese has a hint of green from spicy wasabi, which is then topped with lox, cucumbers, black sesame seeds, and I requested the addition of red onions. The warm bagel, creamy lox, and crisp cucumbers really hit the spot, while the wasabi cream cheese woke me up!

On our last day in Arcata, we had the realization that we weren’t that far from Oregon. In fact, we weren’t that far from Portland, a city that we were very interested in visiting. And Devin can work from anywhere! After checking the distance between Arcata to Portland (8 hours), ensuring our pet sitters didn’t mind looking in on our furry babies again, and asking our host if we could swing back for another stay on our way home, we were off to Portland!


Things we loved about Arcata: cold weather (Devin), trees everywhere, everything is walking distance, small town, cute houses

Things we did not love about Arcata: people loitering around Arcata Plaza who approached us asking for food, cold weather (Alyssa), hippies


Bisbee Grille

December 21, 2011

After our visit to Tombstone, we headed about forty minutes south to Bisbee. Bisbee is a small, historic town set in the mountains. I had been there as a kid to explore the inoperative copper mines, so I wanted to share the experience with my cousin. Unfortunately, we arrived sometime after noon and the rest […]

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Cafe Margarita

December 10, 2011

After our camping trip, I spent the rest of Thanksgiving week visiting family friends in Tucson. My 10-year-old cousin came with me on the trip to Tucson and since it was his first trip outside of California, we decided to partake in some tourist attractions that would entertain him. Our first stop was Tombstone, which […]

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Camp Wishon

December 4, 2011

I’m back! Well, I’ve been back since last Sunday but my routine is only now returning to normalcy. We left the Sunday before Thanksgiving on our traditional Thanksgiving camping trip to Camp Wishon in Sequoia National Forest. We were the only campers at the campground during this visit. It made for some very dark and […]

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Homemade Firestarters

November 16, 2011

I loved being a Girl Scout as a kid. Camping trips, singing songs, making crafts, eating snacks, and even selling Girl Scout Cookies were all part of the experience and I loved all of it. Unfortunately, these days I haven’t retained much of what I learned in my seven years of scouting, but I do […]

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November 28, 2007

Devin and I drove up to the San Francisco area, like we have done for the past couple Thanksgiving holidays, to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Alameda. With both of us having classes on Wednesday, we left Tustin at 1:30am on Thursday morning, arriving into Alameda at 7:30am Thanksgiving morning. After a two-hour nap, […]

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