Our North American Trip - April to June 2010.
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Trip Report for San Francisco, North California, Oregon.  27 April - 4 May

(This will be updated as and when the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could be a bit disorganised at times due to infrequent Internet access!!)

Tuesday, 27 April:   San Francisco
Cloudy with showers      Temp:  12 – 15oC 

Up late and had a lazy day today as the weather was not very pleasant.  Had breakfast at the Chancellor Hotel across the road again.

Early afternoon we had a walk around San Francisco for 2-3 hrs, initially along Market St, then over to China Town and back to our hotel in Powell St (1 block up from Union Square, so very central).

We had dinner at the Katanaya Sushi Bar in Geary Street, San Francisco and the food was delightful.

When we are in our hotel room we continually hear the bells ringing on all the cable cars as they go up and down the street just outside our hotel – they start around 6am and continue until around midnight – a rather pleasant sound.  We also have great views being up on L10 this time.


Wednesday, 28 April:   San Francisco – Fort Bragg
Cloudy with showers           Temp:  10 – 14oC 

 We ordered a ‘Room Service’ breakfast to have in our hotel room (as we had 2 x $10 vouchers for being ‘green’ and not wanting our room serviced for 2 days) – raison bran cereal, fresh fruit, yoghurt, etc.

Left the hotel soon after 9am and walked (pulling our suitcases) up to the National Rental Car agency 1½ blocks away (mainly up hill), so were glad to get there - in between the showers.

We had booked a full sized car but were upgraded to a Luxury one (they appeared to be low on full sized cars, hence the upgrade, not that we mind!  However, when we checked in we were asked if we wanted to be upgraded to a larger car and said No.  We think they would have preferred we paid for the upgrade out of preference!!).  We had to put our GPS in the right hand bottom corner of the front windscreen, as California Law does not allow a GPS to be attached in the centre of a windscreen, unless it is attached to the dashboard!

By the time we left the rental car garage it was around 9.45am, initially finding our way through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping on the northern side to look back at it and take a few photos.  We continued up Highway 101 to Santa Rosa … ooops a couple of wrong turns attempting to get off the Highway and find Beverley’s Fabric & Craft Shop at Santa Rosa.  What a huge sewing and craft haven – I could see a few of my friends spending many hours in that store!  In the mall next door we came across a knife and scissors shop – they guy in it was ever so helpful and it turned out Andrew purchased my Italian scissors from his website – what a hoot!

Before we left Santa Rosa we found a Whole Food Market to get our lunch and some fresh fruit – one gets such nice fresh food from those stores.

By this time it was approaching 2.30pm, stopping off at the Meyer Family Cellars to taste their wine.  We got talking to the winemaker about where we were from - he then commented he had visited Te Karanga winery in Martinborough during their 2004 vintage, and had also spent time in Central Otago while he was in NZ, hence we had quite a talk about wine in NZ and here in the USA.  When we purchased a couple of bottles from his winery he very kindly gave us 25% trade discount because we are involved in some wineries in NZ!  He recommended another winery further along the road where their Pinot Noir is good value for the $$$ one pays for it – nice when someone takes the time to tell you this kind of info.

We then stopped briefly at Boonville, however it had just started to hail so Graham had a brief look in their General Country Store.

A little further on we stopped at Navarro Vineyards where we tried their Pinot Noirs and Zinfandel – yes they were very nice, so purchased a couple of bottles so we should be right for several days!  Slightly further along the road we passed through several km’s of Redwood forest.  The road (highway #128) between Santa Rosa and the coastal Highway #1, was quite windy at times.

We turned into Mendocino to have a look around as we had been told it’s a popular seaside holiday spot for some USA people (holiday houses), however there are also some very large houses as well.

Finally, we arrived at the Shoreline Cottages at Fort Bragg around 5.30pm and checked into our accommodation for the night, then soon drove down the road to the Harvest Market (supermarket) to stock up on some grocery items (now that we have a car) so we can prepare our own breakfasts and get some food for our nights meal.  G found a bottle of Old Smuggler Scotch Whisky for $11 – turned out to be very drinkable!  We had a lovely Clam Chowder for starters followed by chicken, asparagus and salad for dinner.  After dinner we had a walk down to the local beach to see the sun set (too much cloud).

Thursday, 29 April:   Fort Bragg – Crescent City
Cloudy with a few showers           Temp:  9 – 14oC 

We made our own continental breakfast (as we had a kitchen in our unit) - got on the road a little later than planned – how unusual!

Before we departed Fort Bragg we called into the local supermarket to purchase some crab and avocado Sushi for our lunch, as we had been warned there were no reasonable food places north of Fort Bragg.  Thank goodness we did, as they were correct and we had a lovely lunch at our leisure when we wanted, with some lovely Californian mandarins.

Drove up highway 1 stopping a few times to take some coastal photos, ending up in an inland mountainous stretch that was slow and windy for over 40km – it went on and on forever and Annette didn’t quite make it to Highway 101 without a fresh air break!  Once we got onto Highway 101 the road was much straighter and faster, however we took a number of detours to drive through the “Avenue of the Giants” (huge Redwood trees).

We tried to find a herd of Elk, but they heard we were coming and had moved on as they had been there the day before!  To date we haven’t seen much wildlife – only one squirrel, 2 baby dear, a few Pelicans, a few smaller Eagles, 1 hummingbird and 1 Bluejay.

We arrived at the Lighthouse Inn at Crescent City around 5.30pm.  Great accommodation, reasonably priced with a free continental breakfast, free Wifi and a very roomy room up on the 3rd level.

Went to The Good Harvest Restaurant (3 doors away) for dinner (on the hotel recommendation - also #3 on Trip Adviser) – very good meals except Graham’s oysters tasted totally of salt, they agreed, threw out the batter and provided him with a Halibut fish meal instead – nice clam chowder.

Friday, 30 April:   Crescent City
   Fine but cloudy later in day           Temp:  10 - 17oC 

Had a lovely but basic continental breakfast (free at the Inn) then walked down to view the Battery Point Lighthouse – it can only be accessed while the tide is out, hence we were told there would not be any tours as this lighthouse.  We walked from our accommodation to the lighthouse, arriving just before 10am and to our surprise it was obvious the first tour was about to start.  It was very interesting and we learnt a lot about the lighthouse – a local historical society run this lighthouse and volunteers take 1 - 2 month stints living on the premises.  It is privately owned, not coastguard operated.

We then wandered back through the town getting a few food items from a supermarket to take back to our accommodation to make our own lunch.

We had a relaxing afternoon catching up on things and went to Mezzaluna Italiano restaurant for a light dinner.

Saturday, 1 May:   Crescent City - Florence
   Cloudy & Showers (sea fog along coast)           Temp:  10 - 15oC 

After having our complementary continental breakfast (supplemented by some of our own preferred ingredients), we left Crescent City to travel north along Highway 101.

Due to the misty cloudy weather we didn’t stop at several viewing points along the coast.  Our first stop was at the Pelican Bay Lighthouse in Cape Blanco State Park and took a tour run by a local volunteer.

Further up the coast we stopped at the Bandon Fish Market in the old Town Bandon area and had Clam Chowder & Calamari rings for lunch – one of the nicest Clam Chowders we have had and lovely crispy squid rings.  We also noticed the Cape Blanco Lighthouse was just across the inlet (this saved us the time of having driving some distance through another State Park to visit it).

After driving through North Bend and crossing over the bridge crossing over Coos Bay, we turned off to visit the Silver Point oyster outlet – we were able to sample smoked and fresh oysters prior to buying some.

A little further up the coast we drove through the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park to visit the Umpqua Lighthouse controlled by the US Coastguard.

For some distance between Highway 101and the sea was a large area known as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area available for people to ride all kinds of recreational bikes all over these sand dunes – every time we stopped there were continuous roars of vehicles being ridden all over the sand hills.  Close by these recreational areas were lots of RV Parks, and the majority of vehicles had trailers attached with quad bikes (or the like) on them.

On our arrival into Florence we soon found our accommodation for the night - the Ocean Breeze Motel, then had a quick drive around the area to find the restaurant we had made a booking at – the Waterfront Depot (highly recommended on Trip Adviser website) and get some milk.

We did a quick skype with Andrew and Lee before going out for dinner – had clam chowder then 4 different tappas (oysters, smoked salmon with capers, NZ lamb cutlets & crab stuffed mushrooms)


Sunday, 2 May:   Florence - Portland
   Cloudy and fine           Temp:  12 - 17oC

After having our breakfast in our motel room, we left Florence to travel north along Highway 101.

We soon arrived at the “Sea Lion Caves” – took the lift down 200+ feet to where the sea cave was where we could see the Sea Lions and their pups lying over all the rocks with several of the young ones  frolicking around in the sea water.

While there we also observed groups of Cormorants on the steep banks above the Pacific Ocean.  At that same spot we were also able to view the Heceta Head Lighthouse across the water on the next northern point.

As we drove up the coast we stopped off at some different view points to have a look at some of the views of the beaches etc.  Stopped at Newport to have a coffee – A’s was not so pleasant (quite burnt tasting) – I think she needs to change to drinking tea as the Americans seem to have great difficulty making a nice cup of coffee!  We’ll look forward to enjoying our coffees when we return to NZ!

When we arrived at Lincoln City we stopped for lunch, initially stopping at a local smoked salmon outlet (nothing prepared for eating -- just selling fresh seafood) so we asked for some recommendations for a place to have a light lunch.  The woman was so keen to tell us about some of the local eateries that she wrote down 6 different places.

We drove a short distance down the road to the Black Fish Café and had a most enjoyable lunch (G:  Oysters and a fresh salad for A).

We departed Lincoln City around 2pm to drive to Portland – reaching Portland around 5pm after stopping off for some food so we could make our own meals for 2 of the 3 nights we are staying in a self contained cottage attached to a local B&B.

Tonight Graham was going to cook fresh oysters for dinner (purchased yesterday), but we found instructions in the cottage asking us to not cook any fish, use any oil or onion in any food we prepared while staying in the cottage, due to a previous experience the owner had had with one of her earlier clients (had burnt some fish and she couldn’t rent out the cottage for 3 weeks after they departed, hence the current rules re cooking food in the cottage) and she was not due home until after 8.30pm to discuss this with, so we cooked the fresh pork sausages in some tomato, garlic, onion, basil and oregano and had this with some fresh asparagus.  We had also planned to have this with some pasta but had no facilities to cook it in as there were no dishes to use in the microwave and no elements or pots to use!!  Just a little awkward, but we had something that turned out to be very pleasant and the flavour was yummy.

Eventually the owner arrived home so we had a good discussion in regard to cooking the oysters – she has said we can cook them, but she is just a little worried in case any odour is left in the cottage!  Time will tell!


Monday, 3 May:   Portland
   Cloudy with showers & sunny spells           Temp:  11 - 15oC

After having our self catered continental breakfast, we walked to the nearest bus stop (Googled the Portland Transport site and advised what bus stop and bus number we needed to get into Portland).  We had a late start today, as we were up late last night catching up on computer stuff and researching some things for our trip into the city today.

When we caught the bus, our bus driver was very helpful and only charged us $1 each for “All Day” bus passes (once G produced his “Old Farts” card), which we thought was a pretty good deal.  He commented he has a good Kiwi friend and being a motorcycle fan he had seen Burt Munro’s film about the World’s Fastest Indian.

Our first stop was to the Information Centre – we then realised how valuable our bus passes were – they would take us into any of the zones we wanted to travel within all day, which we thought was pretty good.  The woman at the Info Centre was also very impressed with how knowledgeable we already were about Portland – thanks to the research we had done before leaving NZ.

We then caught the Portland City free Street Car (free Street Cars travel backward and forward continuously through the main part of the city) down to have a ride on the Aerial Tram so we could have a ride up to the top to get a view of the city - stopped for a coffee while waiting for a tram.  At the top of the Aeriel Tram was a Hospital and Medical School - we had a quick walk through and were amazed to observe theatre staff who were wandering around in their theatre protective clothing and were also passed by a patient being pushed along a corridor on a hospital bed who we believe would have recently come out of theatre (he was totally out to it)!

Graham was very happy when he located some thermometers with clips on the sides (an improvement on the current ones he uses for cheese making) – something he keeps searching for when we find a new kitchen shop (a Williams-Sonoma kitchen shop staff member suggested we go to a local commercial kitchen shop and yes, some thermometers with a greater range of temperatures than he has ever been able to find before).

From there we visited Powell’s Bookstore – believed to be the best USA reader’s paradise – never experienced a book shop like this before.  It’s massive (takes up a whole block and several floors at that), they have new and used books on the shelves - we noticed quite a few people waiting to resell their used books.  Graham was fascinated at the range of bread cook books they had – a whole section from floor to ceiling  of them!  Unfortunately they are a little heave to carry back.

Lastly we had a walk along the river bank before catching our bus back to our B&B – once again we had a very helpful woman bus driver – we didn’t quite get on the correct numbered bus, but she was very happy to stop especially for us (not at an official bus stop) so we could find our way back to our B&B, which was so kind of her.

We had dinner at home – I (Graham) cooked the oysters we had purchased while driving up the Oregon Coast, and there starts another story!  We have been really disappointed in Oregon oysters.  I had them first at Crescent City – totally destroyed by masses of salt, the first time I can ever remember returning a meal.  Then had them for lunch at Lincoln City – alright but no taste really, and then we cooked some tonight.  They were very large (the medium size ones we bought were 5 to 6” long and 2” wide ) but almost tasteless.  I have had oysters in NZ from Bluff, Cleveland, and other sources, many Sydney rock oysters from the NSW and Victorian coast line and loved them all, so was looking forward to the Oregon oyster coastline.  I probably won’t try any more!


Tuesday, 4 May:   Portland
   Cloudy with showers & sunny spells           Temp:  11 - 15oC

After having our self catered continental breakfast we pre-booked a food market tour for Friday am while we are in Seattle, and we then left the B&B to drive East along Highway 84 (alongside the Columbia River) toward Hood River.

Before leaving Portland we called into Voodoo Donuts (on Lee’s recommendation) to sample their donuts – quite good, but many very large, very ornate and hence probably very sweet donuts. 

We left Portland in steady rain (some hail) but as we drove East down Highway 84 the rain gradually decreased then stopped.  During this time, the Air pressure tyre warning sign appeared on the dash board, so we went off at the next exit and found a garage - Graham checked all the tyre pressures and found the Left rear tyre pressure was less than it should have been.  While off the motorway we also decided to find some windscreen cleaner as the wipers had been making an awful squeaking noise when a minimal amount of water / rain is on the windscreen.

As it was now close to lunch time we decided to drive directly to Hood River and do our stopping as we return to Portland.   We had lunch at the Hood River Bagel Company – so fresh and delicious.  Just prior to arriving there Annette noticed her watch had stopped so took it into a jeweller and got a new battery for it – had only just renewed the battery last Feb so will need to have her watch checked out / overhauled when we get home.  Every trip we have been on, A’s watch stops after the first couple of weeks!!

Drove up to a Panorama Point to see if we could see Mount Hood – the cloud slowly partially cleared while we stopped for 15min or so – Graham has always wanted to be able to view Mt Hood, so now he’s almost seen it.  There were also signs of fresh snow on some of the mountain ranges along the Columbia River – no wonder it has been so crisp in the evenings and early mornings!

Further along the Columbia River on Highway 84, we stopped at Bonneville Lock and Dam – great views of the Lock, Dam Spillway and the Salmon Ladders (that allow the fish in the river to climb up and reach their spawning grounds).  They also have very good viewing windows within the complex next to these fish ladders.  Close by we also visited the fish hatchery (mainly salmon, but some Sturgeon and trout).

Further along the highway we stopped off to view the Multnomah Falls (very high), returning back to Portland around 5.30pm.

Walked to the “Screen Door” restaurant 2 blocks from our accommodation.  Great low cost food and the place was full the whole time we were there.  Had a really tasty smoked chicken & Andouille sausage chowder, pork spare ribs, etc.  Great meal.


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