This past weekend, Beth and I headed out for a long weekend. Destination this time was…south. No real plans other than to just get out of town for a while. I’m a firm believer in taking little trips here and there. Like a warm snifter of B&B on a cold night, it’s good for the soul.

So somewhere around noon on Friday, we head south. I-5 is a royal PIA as always, but traffic seemed to let up a little once we got past Tukwila, and before we knew it we were past the Tacoma dome and movin’ fast. I swear that when we take these trips our car acts like a puppy just let out of the house. It so rarely gets to go any faster than 40 or so that when we hit 70 I can almost hear it yip.

Someplace around Chehalis, the decision was made to go to Portland. Heard good things about it, never been. Sold. Listening to old radio episodes of Dragnet on the iPhone, we start to get lost in the rhythm of the highway. Lost until my stomach let me know it’s time to eat.

Pulling off the highway we find a place called The Little Red Barn. Gotta try that, right? Man, talk about stepping back in time. Full review in another post, but I’ll leave you with this: Candied Apple Slices on Red Tipped Cabbage for garnish. Yeah.

I start seeing signs for Portland and suddenly it just doesn’t seem all that good of an idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Portland is lovely, it’s just…um…how do I put this…it’s frickin Seattle without the needle! Now, I know that’s going to upset folks, but man. I just didn’t see taking a trip just to go home, so we pushed further south into Salem.

Gas is getting a little low, Beth is getting ready to stop for the day, so we pull off on the outskirts of Salem. First place we check out is Phoenix Suites. WOO!!!!! Gotta be home for a couple of desert rats like us, so we check it out. Right next door to the hotel is a “Gentleman’s Club.” Now, I liked the hotel, but even the prospect of a free Prime Rib Dinner on Mondays could convince Beth it was a nice place, so we tried another hotel. But…but…Free Prime Rib honey!!! You just can’t…right. New place. Got it. Found it! Red Lion. Restaurant and lounge in the hotel. Good rates. Sold.

Made our way over to the hotel, parked and got in line to register. We see people coming and going all pushing bag carts full of wigs, evening dresses, makeup kits, etc. Odd, I didn’t see anything about a fashion show or anything…Free Prime Rib? Okay. I won’t bring it up again. We register, and head up to our room.

Quick refresh, and we are back out of our room, headed down to the lounge. I catch a glimpse of 4 rather tall girls in funky wigs headed out. On double take I see they are drag queens headed out for the night. AHA! Now all the makeup, wigs and such makes sense. Must be some sort of a drag queen fashion show. WOO! Dinner and a show!

We head into the lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail and find out that Ted Vaughn’s Blues Band was playing that night. We quickly decided to forgo the formal dining, and instead eat at the bar. I’ll post a review of the restaurant separately, but trust me. Williamette Grill is NOT the best place for steaks.

After Ted started playing, I knew we made the right choice. Nothing like live blues to just cap a day of traveling. We enjoyed several sets, then headed upstairs to our room. Note about the room. Apparently for the Red Lion Hotel in Salem Or, getting upgraded to an executive suite means you get a chair WITH the desk. Nothing special, but to be fair, nothing bad either. A good, clean room with plenty of water pressure. What more do you need on a road trip? 

Day 2

We awoke, enjoyed in room coffee from coffee ground in 1945, showered, dressed and headed down for what was reported to be the best Eggs Benedict in Salem. I’ll be honest, very good. Again, I’ll include more on the restaurant review, but in short: A nice way to start the day.

The day, by the way, consisted of rain. Rain and more rain. But, the inside of the car was dry, so what the heck. Off we go! And we pushed off. Didn’t get to see all of Salem I wanted to, but I think we’ll be back. I like the layout of the town.

Plan had morphed a bit. We were now going to continue down I-5, then cut over west to 101 once we got past Eugene Or. on Rt. 38. Nothing spectacular on I-5, but Rt 38 was a lovely drive through the hills and small towns like Drain and Elkton. We got all excited just before Reedsport when we saw a herd of Elk! Come to find out it’s a herd kept by the wildlife folks with view stations, the whole nine yards. First elk seen and they were almost zoo elk.

Pressing on, we hit 101 and head south for a bit. Finding a little area that looked interesting, I took a right and we ended up in Winchester Bay. Cool little summer tourist place, one of thousands up and down 101. Found a nice little restaurant for lunch, The Bedrock. I’ll review this later, but in a nutshell, nice place. Good grub at a good price.

After lunch we switch gears and head north on 101. If you ever get the chance to take this highway, do so. From the top of Washington down to San Diego, from changing to 1 to 5 to 101, it’s 1400 some odd miles of pure fun. Great ocean views, tremendous woods, old run down diners and motels from the roads glory days. Just a stone cold blast, and well worth it. I’d like to cover all of the road someday. Not all at once, but over time.

As we are heading north, we keep seeing signs for elk crossing. Now, on the left of me is a cliff that leads to the ocean. On the right is a mountain side. And signs for elk crossing. Where the heck are they going to cross? I kept imagining some poor elk sliding on his ass down the hill, bouncing across the road, flying out into space over the cliff raising a front leg and shouting, “I REGRET NOTHING!!!!” Did I mention my mind wanders on road trips? Oh yeah.

We wanted to stay at the Casino in Lincoln, Crystal Lake or something, but it was booked solid. The Great Spirit’s way of saying we’d be better off not gambling. So heading His advice, we headed back south a bit to the Inn at Spanish Head. From the road it looks like a nice, Spanish style 2 floor hotel right on the cliff. Once inside though, you find the lobby is on floor 9. The hotel goes right down the cliff face all the way to the beach. Stunning place. Bit pricy for off season but all in all, a great place. Restaurant was nice as well, and I’ll review that later.

Final day was just an quiet drive home. Overall trip success? I give it 4 out of 5. Good food, fun places, and good memories. I love taking trips like this with Beth. We both have the same feelings on when to stop, where to stop, etc. Makes for a totally relaxing time. Even if I am fighting 40 mph side winds.

Till next time,

Gregor

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