Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

August 20, 2012

Southern Exposure: Flying the baby bird

Tami Wenning
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — I know there are a lot of you who will know where I'm coming from when I talk about the empty nest.

I've been trying to do a lot of last minute mother-daughter things before my baby bird flies off to college and leaves me with a somewhat empty nest.  She's leaving me home with this guy I married some 27 years ago and a grown-up son that barely has time to sleep at home before heading to his job. I'm soon to be alone with nothing but sports nuts and a goofy dog.

So, we've rushed around and done some fun things on top of all of the things that have to be done and I've been so bad Ñ I haven't submitted a column for about three weeks. I'm glad the powers-that-be at the Daily News are easy to get along with!

First off, I have to admit that I cheated on you.

While you were all sweltering in the heat and humidity that last week or so of July, I was waking up to temperatures in the high 50's, and during the day I actually needed long sleeves a time or two.

Danielle and I took a trip to Portland, Ore. to visit a niece. While we were there, we borrowed her car and put well over a thousand miles on it. We visited Crater Lake, the giant redwoods in California and drove up the Oregon coastline. It was beautiful and we had such a great time.

I did the driving and Danielle did the navigating, and the only times I had to do U-turns were when I wasn't paying attention.  If you've never seen the redwood trees, put them on your bucket list. Talk about making you feel small and insignificant! These giant trees and the lush ferns that are growing under them just make you feel like you're somewhere prehistoric.

And, I never dreamed that I would see elk lounging along the ocean. It just doesn't seem right, but there were at least 40 or more in the herd that we saw.  On my right were tall trees and wilderness, and on my left was a strip of meadow-type land, then sand and shore.

All up the coast there were tiny little towns with tiny little old-time looking cottages and so many neat places to stop, we didn't think we'd ever make it back to Portland.

On the night we intended to go back to Portland, we stopped at a little town called Newport and stayed long enough to watch the sun set on the Pacific.  The west coast is so different from the east coast.

It is all wild and outdoorsy and the east coast is all commercialized. People who love hiking, dogs, bicycles and fresh air would fall in love with the west coast. Everything is set up to be walker, hiker, dog and bicycle friendly.

Anyway, after we watched the sunset, we headed through the dark toward Portland while I nervously scanned the sides of the road for elk. Those things are huge and I didn't really want to hit one with Anne's car.

We got back late in the evening and the following day, took a trip into downtown Portland to the City Market where we enjoyed some of the finest people-watching ever, in addition to the shopping. We also visited Powell's which is the world's largest independent bookstore. If I were smart and had the time, it'd be fun to see how many acres of books are in that place.

We also stopped at the infamous Voodoo Donut shop and if you promise not to tell my friends at Weight Watchers, I'll tell you what we had: The world's most perfect donut, bacon-maple!

It had two strips of bacon across the top of a caramel-iced long john and it was awesome! The next day, Anne's husband Shankar took Danielle and I to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. I thought ÒTillamookÓ was some sort of moccasin and was excited about buying a new pair of shoes but it turns out, I can get just as excited about watching cheese be made and getting to sample it.

Again, I keep wondering why I'm floundering at Weight Watchers but as I write this, I'm starting to see what my problem is!

Guess I may as well confess that the darn place makes and sells ice cream, too!

From there, we headed northward and hit more coastline and eventually made our way to where Lewis and Clark said Òhey, I think we finally found the PacificÓ. We went just a little way into Washington and then headed back to their house.

Because the soil has extra minerals and stuff in it because of the volcanic ash that has drifted onto it, everything grows extra big and bright. Flowers were everywhere and Portland is famous for all of the rose bushes growing in the median, along roadways and in ditches everywhere.

We took the zoo train and stopped at Portland's International Rose Garden and I have never seen or smelled anything quite as wonderful as this place.  Roses the size of dinner plates down to little bitty miniature beauties were everywhere and in every color imaginable. The rose garden is even free to visit!  We paid to walk into a world-famous Japanese garden and experienced instant peace. It was lush, green and mossy and had pretty little waterways running through it.

Before we left their place, Shankar took us to the east end of the Columbia River Gorge where I got to meet Herman the Sturgeon at a fish hatchery, and we took short walks to see some beautiful waterfalls.

There isn't enough space for me to continue rambling about our trip but my always-quiet daughter told me she did enjoy herself, even if she didn't express it out loud. And, I'll always be glad we took the time to do the trip. I also know of two very willing hosts who would love to have visitors from Indiana, so if you're ever in the mood to check out the Portland area, I can hook you up.

I'll get back in the swing of things after we get her taken to college and then I'll fill you in on something besides my travel and eating habits! Thanks for reading.