Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Columbia River Gorge and a Bit of Nostalgia

At Portland Fairview RV Park, Portland, Oregon...

It was my first visit to the mighty Columbia River Gorge, and I was suitably awestruck. The Grand Canyon is perhaps more of a wonder to behold, but the majesty and beauty of the Columbia defies comparison with any other river system I've seen.

We made our way up the Washington side of the river, stopping now and then to take in the spectacle of nature's showing off:

We took little side trips to check out some of the towns along the way and found this especially quaint setting in Camas, dominated by a giant Georgia-Pacific plant and having this bucolic setting for its main drag in the town center:

It looks as though the city fathers didn't see the need to cut down some of the large trees that evidently grew to maturity partially out in the street. It's a wonderful shady place, though, and no one seems to mind. We liked this little town a lot.

We also took a brief tour of the Bonneville Dam, erected in the late 1930s as part of the New Deal, and found it very interesting--especially the massive amount of electricity generated by the dams on the Columbia. It is the most generated on any river, according to the information center.

Driving on to Hood River, we toured the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (at the suggestion of Joe and Betty; thank you!) and found it highly interesting. An unexpected surprise was my discovery of a display of not one, but two, types of airplanes that were of profound importance to my flying career.

The first was an Aeronca 7AC, the exact model of the airplane in which I flew my first solo flight when I was 16 years old:

So many memories came rushing back as I took in the sight of this old airplane. I remember vividly a slight sense of anxiety as I flew it around the flight pattern for the first time by myself, a mere kid, knowing I was quite alone and responsible for whatever good or bad was about to happen. Then came the euphoria of having made a fine landing and feeling the slap on my back by the instructor afterward. As I stood there in the hangar, I thought how primitive and fragile was this little fabric-covered airplane compared to the airplanes of today, and I suddenly felt old.

The second airplane of great significance was a Beech Super 18, in which I flew a lot of hours carrying mail at night. It was my first real flying job, and I learned more in those five years than perhaps any time since. The airplane was considered among pilots to be somewhat of a challenge to fly, and I confess to a degree of pride in having mastered it, flying at night in all kinds of weather. Standing there looking at it, I could again hear the unmistakable chugging of the Pratt and Whitney R-985 radial engines and could see the engine exhaust flame that was always visible from the cockpit at night. It was quite a moment, and I was so glad I stopped at this place.

After all this travel back in time, we were hungry, of course. When we made our way back to Portland on I-84, I did a little research to find a good seafood restaurant that wasn't ruinously expensive. From what I could determine about the reviews, The Fisherman's Wife might be a good choice. Indeed it was! As you can see, it is a very unassuming storefront in a part of town that was anything but upscale. This had all the earmarks of a good find, and we had high expectations, having found some of the best food in places like this:

The Calamari appetizer and my cioppino (seafood soup) were superb.

Sandy's Halibut filet was delicious, but we thought the serving was a bit skimpy; that was the only blemish on the meal.

It is always satisfying to have found a nugget like this, where the meal was half the cost you would find at one of the upscale restaurants. It will definitely go on the favorite restaurant list.

What a great day this was! One more day to go in Portland.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I do not appreciate it enough each day.

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