The Road Less Travelled #7

Sokol Blosser Winery in the Willamette Valley wine growing region in Oregon

Oregon Wine Country

It’s just a short drive from Portland to Dundee where many wineries are situated.  Strip malls and stop lights every ten feet eventually gives way to vineyards and random roadside shops.  For me, it was an enjoyable drive.  What made me a little hectic was figuring out where to actually stop.  If you have a particular taste for a certain varietal, you can do your research and figure out which winery offers what you’re looking for.  Although I much prefer reds, I was open to anything.  I think I was just looking for the experience.  I had never been to a winery before, didn’t know what to expect.  I had certain impressions in my mind.  Is this going to be snobby?  Will it be expensive?  Am I going to have to make an embarrassed about-face when I realise I’m in over my head, like that one time I went to Pacific Railcar in Los Angeles on a suggestion, only to discover that the restaurant was WAY out of my budget.  (Thankfully, many restaurants now have their menus posted outside and on websites just to save trouble.)

Sometimes when I travel I get this thing inside my brain.  I’m not sure I can explain it to you all; sometimes I worry about how I will be received.  Yes, this is 2012, but you know–I’ll leave it alone.  At any rate, all this worrying turned out to be for nothing.  There are a dozen wineries in this area.  If you’re being random like I was, the little blue signs tell you which direction from the road and how far.  Despite all the suggestions I received, I just picked one.  I couldn’t tell what from what on the websites, and I was just making myself more confused.  I ended up at Sokol Blosser for the first stop.  The lady there was really nice.  I told her I was new to wine tasting and didn’t know all the particulars.  She didn’t look down her nose at me, she helped me out and explained the whole process.

I liked their wines and ended up buying a rose pinot noir.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed.  That’s how new I am to this, and I think that’s the whole point:  to discover something random.  Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to try but never got a chance to, or maybe it’s something you’ve never even heard of.  Maybe it was a recommendation but you couldn’t find it.  That’s what I ended up loving about the whole wine tasting thing.

Now, I know there are a ton more that I could have went to but I’m a serious lightweight.  Yes, I know you don’t have to drink the whole thing, but I did anyway and I knew that if I had anymore within that hour or so I’d end up either dancing on the tabletops or in jail, take your pick.  (Tip:  Don’t drink and drive!)  Besides, I still had to get to my final destination.  I started so late in the day that if I dallied too much I’d end up driving after dark.  The road I planned to take was described as windy and curvy, not a good idea for me to be on it after dark as my nighttime vision is not really that great.

I continued on 99W (I think.  It’s been a few days so now I can’t remember.)  This really is very pleasant.  There was not a lot of traffic and the countryside is very beautiful.  You will find there are many random wineries up and down this road.  I planned one more stop at the Willamette Valley Winery just outside of Salem.  I know that many of you have told me to get a map, and as of this writing I finally have one and that’s because of this whole incident:

I got to Corvallis, not realising that I had already missed the turn off to Salem.  I was lost, but not really lost.  You know how you know where you are but not in conjunction with where you’re trying to get to.  I was so fixated on trying to figure out where I was, that I didn’t realise how I was driving.  I switched lanes several times, blinker in the wrong direction, stopped dead in the street, other cars blaring their horns at me.  Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just pull over.  I was trying to read road signs but not really paying attention to what was going on around me.  It’s little wonder that I got pulled over.


The officer turned out to be very nice.  “Ma’am, you were swerving all over the road there, made a left turn but your right turn signal was on.  Are you okay to drive?”  I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t.  I have this horrible thing where I laugh when it’s inappropriate because I’m nervous.  Thankfully, I was smart enough to put the wine in the trunk.  Then I couldn’t find the registration to my vehicle.  I had just updated the tags before I left on my trip.  I ended up giving him a copy of the title.  He said he wouldn’t know the difference anyway.  He doesn’t encounter Florida drivers very often.  (I am licensed and registered in Florida.)  Then we talked about the military a little bit.  I have a big Army National Guard sticker in the back window.  I think he was trying to assess whether I was drunk or high or otherwise unfit to drive.  He also instructed me that I was pronouncing Willamette incorrectly.  I had been saying willa-MET.  It’s wil-LAM-met.   Having determined that I’m not a DUI and just some lost tourist, he helped me out and gave me directions to where I was trying to go.  He did not give me a ticket but told me to pull over the next time I get confused.  Nice guy.  In DC, that would have been a $300 ticket, I assure you.

I got to Willamette Valley Vineyard with no further issues.  This is a big place that obviously caters to crowds.  There were already 15 other people in the tasting room when I showed up, so I didn’t get the same attention as I did at Sokol Blosser.  Still, just in listening to the other patrons I learned a few things.  I guess I could have been a little more demanding and made my presence known, but the two girls behind the counter looked harried enough and I’m not that type of customer.  I did buy a whole cluster pinot noir and a riesling.  I’m not a huge fan of whites, but I really liked it and I am planning a seafood dinner for when I get back to my parents’ house.  I think it will go well with the fish.  My parents really don’t drink.  My dad might have a glass every once in awhile, which is good because the rest of the bottle will be for me.

I got back on the road to Corvallis, making sure to drive at a moderate speed and in the correct lane.  I received many suggestions from TA on which road to take to the coast.  In the end, I fate decide.  When I go to the Rt 34/20 split, whatever lane was in that’s where I went.  I ended up on Rt 34.  There were less cars going this way anyway.  And this turned out to be such a scenic drive.  It is very windy and curvy, but the road is tree-lined in some parts and then there are these fabulous country houses and farms.  I thought to myself as I drove, “Now, this is good American farm country.”  You go through Suislaw National Forest, and for the most part there was nobody on the road.  I didn’t pass anybody going west, and only a few cars heading back east.  I rolled the windows down, turned the music off and just enjoyed the drive.  Very nice.

It was bright and sunny the whole drive, but as soon as I got to Hwy 101 the fog just rolled in.  It felt like the temperature dropped 10 degrees.  My AC had conked out earlier as I left Portland.  I thought it had turned back on, but no, that’s just the cold wind coming off the Pacific.  It was gorgeous, but a little gloomy.  I did stop to take some pictures but by this point I was getting tired and hungry.

I arrived in Florence not too much later.  The front desk guy at the hotel was really nice.  He gave me a dozen restaurant suggestions and told me I had special eyes.  He said he was a photographer and he notices things about people.  I was too tired to dine out, so I opted for a Thai place instead.  It wasn’t very good.  Noodles too sticky, broccoli very mushy.

I was too sleepy to even do my homework.  I turned the heat on full blast and crawled into bed.  At 10AM, I was still there.  I almost never sleep that late but I obviously needed it.  I think I’m just worn out.

The drive down into California was pretty nice even though it was grey and foggy.  This plays to my gothic sensibilities.  I like how mysterious the road looked.  The fog wasn’t particularly thick but visibility was lowered and it’s like you don’t know where the road is going.  I felt like I was the first person to discover the area, or something.

One thing I did notice is how low lying the coastal area is.  I also saw Big Voice speakers.  It didn’t occur to me that this area could be subject to tsunami.  This is all part of the Ring of Fire, of course, so earthquake and volcanic activity is prevalent.  I passed a few signs that talked about a major tsunami that occurred in the late 1800s.

The road veers off from the coast a little bit into a forested area.  Very randomly, I saw a big white horse coming out of the trees.  It made me think of Shadowfax, Lord of Horses, when he comes to take Gandalf and Pip to Minas Tirith.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it.  I’ve read the book and seen the movie enough times for all of us.

I went through Bandon and Port Orfond (I might have this name wrong.)  Great views of the ocean.  I think cliff driving is not as bad as mountain driving.  There’s probably no difference, only what I perceive in my mind.  I was sorry to see Oregon go as I crossed the border after Brookings.  I thought to myself, “Good-bye, Oregon.  It was a pleasure to have known you.”

I planned to stay in Crescent City but the night I was in Florence, I fell asleep making the reservation.  When I woke up the next morning the hotel had sold out.  When I arrived in Crescent City, it looked sketchy to me.  I’m sure it’s not that bad.  Apparently there was some damage from the tsunami spawned after the large Japan earthquake in 2011.  I wasn’t really that tired so I kept going until Eureka.

Even though this is not the happening place, I ended up staying here two nights.  I had major homework to do, plus I needed a day to recharge and plan the San Francisco portion of the trip.  Let me tell you that I had some serious frustrations when it came to San Francisco, but that will be for tomorrow’s post!

Tomorrow:  If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair



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