2018 Providence Bridge Stride

Date of walk: Sunday August 12, 2018

One Sunday morning in August Portland shuts down many of its bridges to car traffic and gives them over to the Providence Bridge Pedal/Stride where bike riders and walkers enjoy some beautiful views of the city. We took part in for the fourth year in a row – you can read about our earlier walks here. We aren’t bike riders so we always pick the walk. This year is was a relatively short walk of just over 5 miles. We headed north from the waterfront and headed west, then north, then east over the I-405 Fremont Bridge, then crossed back over the Steel Bridge.

Our route.


I concentrated – not exclusively – on taking pictures of people this year; as I clicked away my previews looked great on my camera screen. Then when I got home I looked at the first pictures and was disappointed at how grainy some of the images were. What was going on here? Yeah it was a cloudy day, but not that dark and even pictures of people across the street were grainy. Then I looked at the photo settings and saw that all the pictures were taken at 1/1000 of a second – even shooting with a wide open aperture! As a result the ISO values were really high which leads to grainy images.  OH NO! I forgot to unset that minimum shutter speed setting after taking train pictures the week before. I had fixed the other settings for taking pictures of fast moving objects but forgot about this one. AAARGH! I felt a giant pit in my stomach. I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure Portland and Providence Hospitals won’t re-run the event so I’ll have to go with what I got.

The stride kicks off promptly at 8:00 so we had to get up early to get a bit of breakfast and then catch the MAX train into downtown. As we lined up at the starting line some of the earlier bikers were finishing up and being cheered on by a group of volunteers who were really into it.

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Funny, just because I have a biggish camera hanging around my shoulder people think I can take good pictures. These 3 women asked me to take a shot of them with their iPhone. I agreed as long as I could snap one on my camera.

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Soon the woman who would count down the start got on the microphone.

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And we were off; as we headed up Glisan toward the I-405 off ramp – which would be our on ramp – we passed a set of sculptures.

Before long striders and bicyclists converged on our approach to the Fremont Bridge. We walked opposite the regular flow of traffic. The top deck of this double decker bridge is for southbound traffic.

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The bridge came into sight.

This bridge was built in 1968. The main span was built in Japan and floated over the ocean and down the Columbia and Willamette river where it was held in place by huge tug boats and barges as it was bolted into place. A friend told me thousands of people came downtown to watch.

There is a huge party on top of the bridge. Lots of organizations have booths and serve snacks and provide entertainment. Bike shops have a presence to help with bike problems.

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People cheer and high five one another.

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Grant High School had a chorus group there. Here are some of the guys.

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Of course the view is spectacular. These two bridges are 4 or 5 miles north of the Fremont; the closer one is a railroad bridge and the one in the background is the St. Johns Bridge.

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You can see from this map segment the relative distance of the bridges we saw. The Fremont Bridge is the one with the “405”emblem in the middle/lower right. The St. Johns and railroad bridges are up at the top left. The other downtown bridges are clustered south of the Fremont.


After splitting a banana and sharing a cup of water we left the party and headed to the east side of the Willamette River. But, wait! The Union Pacific Albina Yard is just under the Fremont Bridge on the northeast side. I can’t let an opportunity to take train pictures go by.

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After winding our way by the Moda Rose Center we crossed back over the Willamette to return to the west side of downtown. There wasn’t a party going on, but the views of the other downtown bridges was nice.

Looking north the Broadway Bridge and the Fremont – which we just crossed – are in view.

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Looking south we see the Morrison Bridge and others – How many bridges can you count?

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Shortly after coming off the Steel Bridge the finish line came into view.

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What a great time. The event brings together over 9,000 participants and who knows how many volunteers. We’ve had a great time each of the 4 times we’ve participated.

Here is a look at some of the participants. Dang it – I couldn’t find the tent where they handed out ice cream bars.

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A few tour helicopters buzzed overhead.

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We earned lunch; we caught a Beaverton-bound MAX train but got off at Goose Hollow before the tunnel to grab a bite at the Goose Hollow Inn – which serves the best Reubens I’ve found in town.

I love Portland area; it’s such a livable city with many civic events and opportunities to enjoy our part of the Pacific Northwest. If you live in Portland or are close enough to come for a weekend in the summer, I urge you take part. And as you can see – no bike? No problem. Walking is a great option.

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Columbia Gorge Trip

Trip Dates: August 3&4, 2018

After working on my camera skills for moving trains this summer it was time to head out on an adventure. We drive out the Columbia Gorge a few times a year – usually on the way to somewhere else. The Union Pacific railroad runs along the Oregon side of the river while the BNSF runs on the Washington side. My impression is that the BNSF side is generally more busy. Since Washington State Route 14 parallels the tracks for much of the Gorge it was a no brainer to focus on that side.

From earlier experience and checking resources such as Flickr and Google, I came up with a route where I could stop for a while at various stops to set up and grab some photos. Click the photo below to get a closer view.

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My first two stops were duds; I couldn’t find a good photo angle in Camas and even though there was a nice little bridge in Washougal there was no place to park or stand to get pictures. I did see a westbound grain train heading into Vancouver while I was looking for a spot. I figured where there is one train there will be others so I was excited for the day.

As I was driving to my next spot I pulled over at the Cape Horn scenic overlook just to get a view of the beautiful Columbia Gorge. It was a cool cloudy day – which was a nice change from the upper 90’s we had been experiencing – and I was treated to a dramatic view.

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Looking east from the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge is a great place to visit even if you don’t like trains.

My next stop was the US Forest Service St. Cloud day hike area. Just off highway 14 there is a spot at the entrance to the trail area that had nice sight lines. I stopped and waited an hour for trains. No luck. No worries, let’s keep moving.

My next spot was a maintenance-of-way spot in Skamania near Skamania Landing Road. I dropped in there for a bit but no trains coming. It wasn’t the most scenic place so I kept moving east.

I was thinking that one of my stops might be in a Washington State park where I would need a day pass. Luckily there is a spot to buy passes at the Beacon Rock state park. After paying for the pass, I thought to myself “Hmm, I bet if I take this trail over the ridge and down to the river I’ll come across the tracks. Hiking seemed like a good change of pace from sitting in the car so off I went. After about a mile of up and down, I came to the tracks.

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The river was just on the other side of the underpass so I headed through and was treated to a nice view of Beacon Rock.

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With the tracks being overhead I figured I couldn’t get a good angle so I hiked back to the car to head out. As I was leaving I saw a BNSF high-railer truck heading west. Uh oh; if they are working on the tracks there might not be many trains.

Driving east I stopped at a little visitor center celebrating the history of logging in the area. Next to the road was an old F7 (or some other F unit). I thought I’d better get a picture – it might be the only train I see!

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I walked up the steps to peak inside – those early diesel locomotives were barebones – it sure didn’t look comfortable.

By this time it was well past noon and I was hungry; lunch in Stevenson, Washington sounded good.One of the tourist stern wheeler steam ships stops here meaning there is a real nice parking lot near the tracks. There is also a nice restaurant – Clark and Lewies – right on the river. I sat on the deck and had fish and chips while kite sailors made their way out on the river. No trains came by while I ate lunch and I was definitely thinking “no trains today”

Regardless, the drive is nice. Next stop Home Valley.  I was real excited about this spot. There is a little wooden pedestrian bridge over the track here with long views in each direction.

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Pedestrian Bridge near Home Valley, Washington.

That’s what I saw during my 30 minute hang-out: empty track.

Ah well, let’s keep driving.

Over the years I’ve been on the hunt for some vintage cast iron skillets.  By serendipity I was talking cast iron with buddies on two different occasions this summer. As I passed through the little town of Bingen, Washington I spotted the “Antiques and Oddities” store and those conversations jumped up in my brain so I turned in and found two gorgeous, smooth-bottom skillets. One is an 8-inch Griswold; the other a 10-inch Wagner Ware. Lodge is the primary maker of cast iron skillets today; if you have one, rub your hand over the inside – when it’s cold please! – and you’ll feel and see lots of bumps. The older cast iron cook ware were made from different molds and they have very smooth interiors. I was delighted with my find and even more delighted when I negotiated a discount for buying two skillets. I’ll post some details on these in a few weeks when I strip and re-season them.

As I was examining the skillets an east bound BNSF freight rolled through! I missed it!

On I went. The spot I had picked near The Dalles dam was way too windy – have I mentioned it gets REALLY windy out in the Columbia River Gorge? – so I didn’t stay. Then I must have entered the wrong coordinates into my Google Maps – instead of ending up at Horsethief Butte trail overlooking the tracks and the river, I ended up up in the rolling hills north of the river in the Columbia Hills Historical State Park. Which isn’t much of a park – it’s mostly a rutted dirt road through some golden fields. No trains up here for sure; but some nice views anyway.

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Looking toward Mt Hood from Columbia Hills Historical State Park

Along the way  I passed some private property abutting the park where there is a great old wagon.

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I had planned to go on out to Maryhill a few miles further up the river but it was getting past dinner time so I headed back, crossed over the Hood River bridge and spent the night in Oregon. The Best Western hotel in Hood River is right on the river along a walkway through parkland along the river bank.

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Hood River Bridge

I walked for a while hoping to find a place to eat but the sun was getting ready to set …

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Looking east up the Columbia River

… and I was hungry so I had a nice dinner on the deck at the motel.

I planned out my next day. Surely there must be trains on Saturday! No way could we have two slow days in a row. So, rather than going back home via I84 on the Oregon side I retraced some of my steps from Friday. Just west of the Hood River bridge is a nice parking area. No sooner had I parked than I saw the west bound Amtrak Empire Builder making good time. I got my camera up just in time to get a big blue and black blur.

But then I looked around and saw some beautiful sites. The moon was overhead.

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And Mt Hood looked like it was just across the river.

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I zoomed in on the mountain.

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After waiting some more, I headed west where I passed a west bound BNSF grain train stopped in a siding. That was cause for hope. I stopped at the pedestrian bridge in Home Valley again for half an hour or so; but no luck. I decided to go back to that nice parking lot in Stevenson to wait. After about 45 minutes with no action I started to leave when I saw a signal light turn to flashing yellow then green. I grabbed my gear and got ready.

FINALLY! The grain train I passed came into view. It’s the only train I got pictures of so, I’m going to show two.

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I headed home; disappointed I didn’t see more trains but happy with the trip overall. I got some nice pictures of the Columbia River Gorge, scored two vintage cast iron skillets, and narrowed down train watching sites.



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Still more camera testing / trains

Photos Taken: July 21, 2018

Yes, I’m still working on my exposure settings for moving trains. Earlier this summer I posted my results from previous settings and talked about my plan to improve my photography. My last post on the effort was July 11; I had improvements over the early summer efforts but felt like there was more improvement to be made.

To put it in a nutshell, I decided to go with manual exposure, setting a fast shutter speed to capture the moving trains and an f-stop in the range of 8.0 to capture some depth of field but keeping the Sony A7R3 ability to do fast (phase detect) focusing. Without too many more words, here are my results. You can click on the individual images to bring up bigger versions if you want to see more detail.

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Sony A7R3; 1/800 sec at f/6.3, ISO 200



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Sony A7R3. 1/800 sec at f/7.1, ISO 640

As this Amtrak rolled through, my camera lost its focus point. I had about 5 more images after this [image has been cropped] but they were way, way out of focus. This happened twice. I think the culprit was the “Lock-on AF: Expand Flexible Spot” setting for focus area. I switched to “Lock-on AF: Flexible Spot M[edium]” and “S[mall]” These settings kept the trains in focus as it moved past.

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Sony A7R3 1/800 sec at f/7.1, ISO 800

Then I pulled out my Sony RX10M4 bridge camera to see how it would do. I couldn’t exactly duplicate the settings but tried to keep them similar.

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Sony RX10M4 1/500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 125


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Sony RX4. 1/500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 160


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Sony RX10M4. 1/640 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100

I’m pretty happy with these. Using a fast shutter speed definitely helps. I notice that in my effort to capture the lead locomotive, my shots often leave a lot of the train out. I need to work on a better angle – something like this.

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Sony A7R3. 1/800 sec at f/6.3, ISO 400

So there it is – manual mode seems to work well. I’m confident enough to go to another location and take pictures of faster moving trains in some other location. More on that in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.


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Sous Vide Salmon

Date Cooked: July 30, 2018

I first heard about sous vide cooking about two and a half years ago. I’ve thought about getting an immersion cooker off and on since then – including creating a wish list on Amazon – but never pulled the trigger. Then a couple of weeks ago we were at some friends for dinner and Scott was using an immersion cooker to cook halibut and scallops sous vide style. Then last weekend Carla and I were out for a walk and remembering how good the fish was – she suggested I buy an immersion cooker. Well, if you know me you know she didn’t have to say it twice.

Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” but when I think of it I think of the cooking element which is a device that sits in a container of water and circulates water heated to a specific temperature. Here is the basic set up.

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Water from the container enters the cooker at the bottom, it is heated up and pushed by a fan out of the slot which you can see just above the 5.5L mark on the container. The picture makes it look like there are two slots – but that is due to the water refraction.

The “under vacuum” name comes from the food prep. The food you are going to cook is put into a plastic bag and the air is squeezed out, sealed prior to cooking. Sous vide is perfect for fish – which we really don’t want to overcook. With the sous vide method you set the desired temperature; then once the water is heated the packet is added and the food will cook to the desired temperature – it will not overcook because it is impossible for the food to get hotter than its surrounding water.

I’m guessing that many of the poached eggs – think eggs benedict – you’ve had in restaurants have been made using immersion cooking method (without the vacuum bags). Put the lots and lots of eggs in the hot bath and keep them just below the temp needed to poach. When an order comes in, pull a couple of eggs out of the hot water and poach in less than a minute.

We’ve cooked salmon so many ways: grilling on a cedar plank, sautéing, in the oven. It’s been good but it is difficult to hit that target temperature. Usually, if I look away for 30 seconds it gets way too cooked. So salmon was the perfect candidate for our first cook. I found a great sous vide salmon recipe on Serious Eats. J. Kenji López-Alt has a full write up telling how to cook depending on how well done you want your fillets. Start with a couple of salmon fillets.

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There are only four ingredients to this recipe – salmon, salt, olive oil, and thyme sprigs – and preparation is a cinch. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels, then liberally sprinkle some kosher salt on them,  tuck them in a plastic bag, add some olive oil and rotate the bag a couple of times to get the oil on the salmon. Place an aromatic – we used thyme – on top of each filet and seal the bag.  I used the same method to get the air out as I do when storing chicken stock in zip seal freezer bags. Seal all but an inch or so of a plastic zip top freezer bag and slowly immerse in water. As the bag gets deeper, the water pushes the air out. Get the bag low in the water but don’t let any water get in the bag; when all the air is out completely seal the bag.

Once the water is up to temperature, immerse the bag and clip it so it won’t jostle around too much. We could tell we got most of the air out because the bag didn’t start to float.

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I used the app that came with the Joule immersion cooker we bought. It asked what temperature we wanted and how thick the pieces were; from that it calculated the cooking time – 40 minutes in our case. I probably didn’t need to but I flipped the bag skin side out about half way through. Forty minutes was the minimum time for our desired “doneness” and fillet size – you can leave the salmon in the cooker for another 30 minutes before the texture gets wonky – so you have plenty of time to get the other dinner dishes prepped.

We wanted to sear our salmon at the end so I heated the cast iron skillet with some high smoke point oil.

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We got so engrossed in searing our salmon that I neglected to take any pictures. But here are the fillets after their stint in the skillet. You do need to treat the fillets gently as they will fall apart otherwise.

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The top side only spent about 30 seconds in the skillet. We should have pressed down – genthly –  a bit or given it a bit more time. We had a salad and nice rolls to complete the dinner.

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Rating: ★★★★

These were delicious – I think the best salmon I’ve cooked. The recipe will easily get to a full five stars when I perfect the searing. And perfect for family or company – the only limitation is the size of the water container – we could have easily put two more packets in which would yield six fillets. It’s a hard-to-screw-up recipe which is rare for fish.

There are quite a few immersion cookers out there; the big two are Anova and Joule. I bought the Joule for three reasons.

  1. Our friend cooked with one and the results were delicious. I knew it would meet my needs.
  2. It’s smaller than the Anova cookers which means there is more room in the container for food.
  3. It has a higher wattage. I’m no engineer but I figure that will make the preheat go faster and allow it to cook in larger containers.
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Summer Trip to Newport – Day 3: Leaving

Date of visit: July 17, 2018

We just had a short visit so on Tuesday it was time to go. But first breakfast at the Nye Beach Cafe in Nye Beach20180717 Newport Nye Beach_RXC0091

We got there before they opened up; one website said they opened at 7:00 another at 8:00. We figured: “breakfast! it must be 7:00”.  Nope. So we walked around Nye Beach for a bit – another nice touristy area where we ate dinner the first night – The Chowder Bowl – and breakfast the morning before – I forget the name. It’s a small place and there were only three parties when we got back from our walk a little after 8:00. But the owner was in a rush – apparently the woman who normally does the setup work had a baby the day before so they had to prep stuff as well as cook orders. No worries.

I looked around and was fascinated by the ceiling fans. There are three of them, but they all run off of one motor – the other two are driven by pulleys. Here are the two we could see.


We had a nice breakfast – we recommend stopping there.

Checkout time was noon so we had time to get a walk in on Agate Beach which is just across some sand dunes from the condominium we stayed in. To get to the dunes we had to cross Little Creek.

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Bridge across Little Creek at Agate Beach, Oregon


As you can see by the picture above it was an overcast morning; but Oregon beach goers are a hardy lot, the tide was extremely low bringing out the clammers. There were also some surfers.

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We walked north until the Yaquina Head Lighthouse came into view.

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After walking for an hour or so it was time to pack up and head out. But I wanted one more visit to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. On our first day I went down to the beach; today I wanted to climb the hill overlooking the lighthouse and the coast it protects. The sky wasn’t as blue as our first visit; but it was impressive nonetheless.

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We walked back down the hill and back to the visitor center, hopped in the car and headed home. Traffic was busy again in Lincoln City but nice just the same.

If you find yourself within a few hours of Newport, I recommend a visit.




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Summer Trip to Newport – Evening in Bayfront District

Date of Visit: July 16, 2018

After spending the morning and afternoon visiting the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse we took a short nap before going out for our dinner in the Newport Historic Bayfront District. Back when I was a kid I read the Ripley’s Believe It or Not feature every Sunday in the comics. So when I learned there was a Ripley’s museum in Newport it was a no-brainer that we’d visit.


It was “quirky” and the best thing it does is provide a lens into American culture from the mid-20th century. For one thing; they have an exhibit on how to fight vampires, but nothing about fighting zombies!  That is a sign of the times. If you are of a certain age and remember the feature in the comic strips you might enjoy this; but there are probably better ways to spend your time in Newport.

We thought it would take close to an hour to get through Ripley’s but we were out in about 20 minutes. That gave us some time to walk along the waterfront to look at the fishing vessels at the docks. It seems like we were lucky – at time sea lions make their homes up on the docks, blocking the way, making noise and leaving a mess. We saw one sea lion swimming away and none on the docks. So we had a nice clear view of the fishing vessels at the dock.


We saw signs pointing visitors to a pier where crab and fish were sold right off the boats. But that must have been for earlier in the day as we saw no selling boat-side.

I see on the internet that the Chelsea Rose is a place to buy fresh tuna.


In the picture above you can see a bigger ship docked across Yaquina Bay. It is a NOAA research ship.


Looking south we saw Miss Sue framed by the US 101 bridge.


The bayfront area is part tourist/part working. Along the bay front on the docks is a large fish processing plant. Huge vats of fish are processed. We saw two semi-trucks with refrigerated trailers loaded up and heading out.

It was getting time for dinner so we headed toward Local Ocean which we had heard good things about. As we got there, a man was on the side of the restaurant holding a large open rectangular container  of fish fillets and talking with the head chef who took the the tray and went inside. You can’t get fresher fish than that!

We settled in with appetizers and a vodka tonics – with real potato vodka.


There was a beautiful glass of flowers on our table.


I got to about the second item of the entrees on the menu when I stopped and said “I’ll have that!” Fishwives stew.


Oh, it was rich and delicious: prawns, shrimp, white fish, clams, and crab all nestled in a beautiful garlicky tomato base. It normally comes with scallops but they don’t agree with me so they left that out. I highly recommend Local Ocean Seafood Dockside Grill and Fish Market the next time you need dinner in Newport.

After our wonderful meal we walked through the touristy section of the historic district where we rubbed elbows with fish processors headed to work for their shift. They wore big gray rubber boots and the kind of hoods SCUBA divers wear in order to keep warm. I imagine a fish processing plant is a cold place to work.

Across the street from the fish processing plant there was a long line outside the original Mo’s Seafood – an Oregon coast institution. Across the street is the Mo’s Annex.


There were lots of little restaurants and shops. Newport is a bustling coast town supporting tourists and the fishing industry. Many of the businesses promote that tie between fishing and touristing.


On the back wall of the Ocean Blue @ Gino’s  I caught a quick pictures of this wall of floaty stuff from the ocean


A great ending to a great day of touring Newport.

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Summer Trip to Newport – Day 2

Date of visit: July 16, 2018

Our first stop was the Oregon Coast Aquarium – really it is the reason we picked Newport as our destination. We seem to remember visiting here years ago when the kids were young; perhaps driving the 95 miles from Manzanita during a week at the coast there. But I had forgotten most of what we had seen. Too bad I wasn’t blogging back in the 1980s!

Since we got to the aquarium early we spent the morning moving from exhibit to exhibit as the handlers and feeders handled and fed the mammals and birds on their regular schedule. The first stop was the sea otters – they were cute and fun but we know they can be real pests. We have friends who own a waterfront vacation spot on the Seattle Sound. Sea otters got in under their house and set up their living arrangements. It took some work to evict them, then they had to build a concrete block foundation to keep them away. It was a MESS.

Next stop was to see the sea lions. I was able to get one or two decent pictures here.


Sea Lion at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

If I remember correctly, all he animals we saw were injured or orphaned making the aquarium the only viable place for them to live. This was certainly true for Jojo, the brown pelican who had a permanently injured left wing.


Jojo – the brown pelican at the Oregon Coast Aquarium


Jojo – the brown pelican at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

What a beautiful bird – I was delighted to see one so close. You can see how they are descended from dinosaurs – it reminds me of  a pterodactyl.

We then wandered through the sea bird aviary. I think the first two pictures are of puffins. Maybe? I’m no birder  but I know what is pretty. Frances and my other birder friends – can you help me out with identifying these guys and gals?

Update July 20, 2018. Frances gave me the lowdown which I’m adding as captions. Thank you Frances! You are a peach – even if you aren’t from Georgia!


Tufted Puffin at the Oregon Coast Aquarium


Tufted Puffin at the Oregon Coast Aquarium


Black Oystercatcher at the Oregon Coast Aquarium


Pigeon Guillemot at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

The sea life in the aquarium is amazing but it’s difficult to get decent pictures through the thick plexiglass needed to keep the water where it should be. I was able to get a pictures of tide pool life.


So that’s what I got. Eight pictures from the aquarium and none are of fish.

After lunch we headed down to Yaquina Bay to see the smaller lighthouse.


Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

From this vantage you can see the intent was for this lighthouse to mark Yaquina Bay – which is now spanned by a US 101 bridge. We enjoyed a small self-guided tour where we learned it was only in operation for three years. Unfortunately, its light was reflected by a fifth order Fresnel lens which wasn’t strong enough to be useful to passing ship traffic. The larger Yaquina Head lighthouse – which I wrote about in my previous post – took over the duties of this smaller one.

The good news is that it escaped demolition.


Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and newer life saving tower

.What a beautiful bridge – it is representative of quite a few US 101 bridges on the Oregon coast.




We enjoyed out two tours of Newport landmarks. We headed back to our place for the afternoon to prepare for a night on the town. More on that in my next post.


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