Sunday, March 30, 2008

On the Coast

Dateline: Florence, OR 3/30/08

After my last beading class this morning, I began my trip home via the coastal route. I was worried about snow on the winding coastal roads and considered changing plans, but there was only a little rain and the roads were not bad. The weather is still a lot colder than my California self is used to. (My Massachusetts self would not have had any trouble with it.)

When she heard that I was taking this trip, my friend and former coworker Kathy recommended that I stop in Yachats, a very cute and very small town on the coast. I planned to stay in Yachats tonight, but after arriving there at 4:30, I found that I had just missed the end of a crafts fair, and the restaurant that I chose on the web for breakfast was closed Monday. After a short walk around town, I decided to continue another 25 miles south to Florence, a much bigger town which is not directly on the coast. I feel more comfortable here, with less isolation. I've got a room at the Old Town Inn, where there is sporadic wireless service and an actual rotary dial phone in the room! Florence's picturesque downtown is on the Siuslaw River. I had a very good dinner at Mo's seafood restaurant, which has a great view of the river.

Route 101 here is the coastal road, not the major freeway it is in parts of California. It's two lanes, winding, and goes through small towns like Yachats. The coastal views are beautiful, but not as dramatic and spectacular as they are in California.

When I arrived in Yachats, one of the first things I saw was -- guess what? A bead store! It was the small, hippie-ish type that smells of incense and didn't have anything worth buying, especially after the extravaganza of a market at the Bead Expo. And on my way into Florence, I saw -- guess what? Another bead store, which I plan to visit tomorrow.

Yesterday I got caught in another hailstorm in Portland. After my class I drove to Hawthorne Blvd., a part of the city that one of the tourist publications described as the Haight Ashbury of Portland. I know and love Haight Ashbury, and Portland, this is no Haight Ashbury. It was perfectly pleasant, but more upscale than the Haight (but not as upscale as, say, Noe Valley). I had a nice lunch, bought some gifts for Moch and Noug in a cat store, was happy to see a Peet's coffee but still went to Starbucks instead, and then visited Powell's bookstore. The downtown Powell's, called Powell's City of Books, is truly huge, possibly even larger than the Strand in New York. The Hawthorne store is more like a Small Town of Books.

When I came out of Powell's it was hailing. I got in the car and drove to the Yarn Garden, which was on the way back to the hotel. If I hadn't found a parking space right in front of the store, I probably would have skipped it. But the store was pleasant, had several rooms full of yarn plus a cafe. The hail had stopped by the time I got to the hotel, but I decided that I didn't want to go out again. I bought a salad at Starbucks for dinner, and spent my last night in Portland in my room, watching a dvd of Lost, season 2.

Tomorrow promises warmer weather. And I hope to at least cross the border into California, where I hope all will be warm and sunny. Possible stop for tomorrow night: Crescent City.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Dateline: Portland, OR 3/28/08

Stumptown is a nickname for Portland, a volunteer at the convention center told me. In the 19th century, when trees were cut to make way for roads, the stumps were left standing. Stumptown is also the name of a coffee roaster that I visited today. I read about it as an anti-Starbucks; when Starbucks recently started to use a fancy type of espresso machine, Stumptown announced that they would stop using the same machine. I thought Stumptown's coffee was good, but usually local roasters don't have the nice, oily French roast that is my favorite type of coffee.

I got to Stumptown by taking the light rail from the convention center. Public transit is free in the whole downtown area. While at Stumptown, I realized that I was right near Voodoo Doughnuts, an unusual doughnut store which Mary Beth told me about. But I couldn't eat a doughnut right after having a chewy chocolate cookie at Stumptown, could I? That would just be wrong! I went to look at Voodoo; the door was locked and a sign said that doughnuts were sold out until 3 o'clock.

On to Knit and Purl, a downtown yarn store that has a good stock of Kauni, an Estonian variegated yarn that is hard to find in the U.S. The lower floor contains sale yarns and a room labeled "Knitchen". After a walk through downtown in an unsuccessful search for a bead store that had moved, I found that it was 3:00 -- doughnut time! -- and I was only a few blocks from Voodoo. There was now a line going out the door.

On Voodoo's website they say they have a wedding chapel; a legal wedding is $175 including coffee and doughnuts for 10. They also offer Swahili lessons. I'm not sure I believe any of this, because it's such a small place. They feature a "Tex-ass challenge" -- a doughnut about 10 inches in diameter; if you eat it within 80 seconds it's free. They also have vegan doughnuts and ones with unusual toppings such as marshmallows. I opted for a chocolate doughnut with vanilla drizzle and chocolate sprinkles.

I just made it back to the light rail, eating my doughnut, when a big hailstorm started. It was snowing this morning, but by the time I got out of class the snow had ended and it was almost sunny. The hail was quickly over, but the weather is still much too cold for what I'm now used to after living in California for 14 years. I was glad to get back to the warmth of the convention center.

Yesterday, between bead classes and the market preview, I had a quick dinner at the food court at Lloyd Center, a mall that features the ice skating rink where Tanya Harding learned to skate.

I'll post soon about my classes, which I'm really enjoying.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Azillion Beads

Dateline: Portland, OR 3/26/08

I awoke this morning to the news that a big rainstorm was expected this afternoon, especially in the areas north of Eugene -- exactly where I was driving. Oh, well, the drive couldn't be any worse than my drive on the yarn crawl and to the Quaker Center for our January retreat, could it?

Eugene seems like heaven for crafters. There were several Eugene yarn and bead stores on the list I had made from the web. I programmed the GPS for 5 destinations and sorted them into an order that seemed to involve the fewest trips across town. Soft Horizons has several rooms full of yarn in a cozy Victorian house. I was happy to see an extensive collection of bead knitting kits from Swallow Hill and from Deanna's Vintage Styles. They also had Deanna's beaded short row capelet, which I am currently knitting. I had worse luck with the other two yarn stores. The Knit Shop was in the process of moving to a different store in the same complex, and was temporarily closed. Northwest Peddlers doesn't seem to exist any more. That surprised me, because I think they used to come to Stitches West, but I called the two phone numbers and they had been disconnected.

The two bead stores I visited couldn't have been in more different parts of the city. Harlequin Beads is downtown, and had a great assortment of seed beads and other beads. To get to Azillion Beads, I went through an industrial part of town, and started to think that the GPS was steering me wrong, but then there it was. The friendly staff offered me a cup of tea and served it to me in a nice big mug. It tasted wonderful and was perfect for a cold and rainy day. I sipped my tea while browsing the store. They didn't have seed beads, which is mostly what I work with, but I did find several nice colors of beading wire.

I wanted to find a Starbucks. I wanted a hot latte, my favorite Starbucks sandwich for lunch (the egg salad on multigrain), and a New York Times. I used the GPS to find a nearby Starbucks and lucked out on all 3 items. Then I was ready for the drive to Portland. The rain was on-again, off-again, but not as bad as predicted. There was a lot of traffic coming into Portland, but the trip was otherwise uneventful.

It's nice now to be in the same hotel for 4 days, and to be able to unpack my things because I'm not going anywhere tomorrow, except to class. The hotel is across the river from downtown Portland and a block from the convention center. There's a Starbucks across the street, and also a light rail station where I can get a train into downtown. Hopefully I won't be doing much driving while I'm here. Portland has a very good public transit system and I plan to use it when I have free time from the Bead Expo.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Dateline: Eugene, OR 3/25/08

After leaving Yreka this morning, I passed a sign marking the highest elevation of I-5, 4310 feet at the Siskiyou summit. I noted an outside temperature of 37 degrees. After that it was a long, steep, foggy downhill drive into Ashland, the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a popular retirement community. Ashland is a small town full of stores, restaurants, and galleries. It was nice to do some walking as I checked out bead and clothing stores, and Websters yarn store.

Even I get tired of shopping once in a while. That's how I was feeling when I took off for Medford, about 20 miles from Ashland. I was planning to skip Middleford Yarn and Stitchery, which was on the list I made from the web, but I happened to pass it by accident and decided I was fated to stop in after all. It's a pretty big store with lots of needlepoint and knitting yarn.

Dancing Beads, in downtown Medford, was permanently closed. It looked like the closing was recent, since there were still boxes of merchandise in various stages of being packed up. Last time I was in Medford, several years ago, it looked to me like the downtown was in decline, and today's glimpse confirmed that idea.

At that point it was after 2, and I was dismayed to find out that I still had a 150-mile drive to Eugene, where I had already made a reservation at a Best Western. Unlike yesterday, when I drove 250 miles almost without thinking about it (and then another 100 later in the day), today the 150 miles seemed endless and I found myself getting dangerously tired. I finally made it to Eugene with no mishaps. Instead of giving in to tiredness, I went to dinner at Cafe Yumm, which serves bowls of rice, vegies, avocado and other good stuff, and lived up to its name.

Eugene seems full of yarn and bead stores, which I'll explore tomorrow (assuming I get my shopping energy back). Then comes the shortest drive so far, 100 miles to Portland, where my first Bead Expo class starts on Thursday morning.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Road Trip!

Dateline: Yreka, 3/24/08

I'm on my way to Portland, OR, for a Bead Expo. I'm in the mood for a road trip, so I'm driving to Portland, about 700 miles from home. I'm allowing 3 days to get there, 4 days there, and 3 more days to drive home. The last time I did a road trip like this was a year and a half ago, and it included a different Portland. As soon as I knew that I wouldn't be working full time, I signed up for the Y2Knit retreat in Vermont. I also decided to go to Stitches East in Baltimore. I flew to Portland, ME and drove to Vermont, then to Baltimore via New York and New Jersey, visiting friends and family along the way.

For this trip I've got my own Prius instead of a rental car. It's nice not to have to worry about driving an unfamiliar car, and whether I'll have room for the things I take with me or buy along the way. And I've forgotten how I ever got anywhere before I had a car with a GPS.

People are sometimes surprised that I would want to make this kind of trip by myself. I'm somewhat of a loner, and I enjoy being by myself. I got used to traveling by myself by doing a lot of business travel in the 70's and 80's. I feel a great sense of freedom on a road trip by myself. I can stop wherever I want, eat wherever I want, linger in yarn and bead stores as long as I want. I don't mind driving long distances, as long as the weather is ok and I have my iPod or a good alternative rock station to keep me company.

This morning I drove about 4 hours with only one 5-minute stop at a rest area. After I left all the Bay Area traffic behind, it was smooth sailing up 505 and then north on I-5. The speed limit was 70 and there was not much traffic. I was tempted to stop at the Olive Pit in Corning, but I didn't want to be dissuaded from my original plan. By the time I saw the sign that the Olive Pit had free wireless, I was already passing the exit and it was too late. So I continued on to Redding, a town about the size of Redwood City at the northernmost point of California's Central Valley. Yaks Koffee, which I found on the web, proved to be a great place for lunch, a friendly and comfortable cafe with good food and free wireless. The coconut cream mocha was as good as it sounded when I read about it on the website. Starbucks is always a familiar friend when I'm on the road, but if I can find a good, local, non-chain cafe I'm always eager to try it.

I was skeptical about Sew What because it is mostly a quilting store, but it also has a respectable yarn department. I enjoyed visiting The Beadman. Half of the store has beads, and the other half has tie-dye, belly dancing costumes, and other hippieish items. I bought a lime green tie-dyed teeshirt, some seed beads, and a book about beading spirals (I've recently learned to make Russian spirals and spiral ropes). The store gave me a 10% discount for admitting that I was over 55.

As I left the city that bills itself as "the second sunniest city in the nation" (it doesn't say who comes in first) it was raining. I was about to start the shorter but more difficult part of today's drive, into the Cascade Mountains. I had seen snow on the mountains on the way up I-5 so I was worried about snow and ice, but the road was clear, despite ominous signs saying "ICY", "Watch for Snow", and "Chain Installation, right shoulder only". There was some spectacular scenery, especially as I passed Shasta Lake, and the sun came out again. I took a detour through Weed, mostly because of the name, and got lost in some nice countryside where there was snow on the ground despite temperatures in the 50's. The GPS had nothing to say, and I finally blundered my way back to I-5.

Yreka (pronounced "why-reek-a") is an old gold mining town in very northern California, close to the Oregon border. I've got a motel room for the night. I'm now about half-way to Portland, leaving plenty of time for exploring Oregon tomorrow and Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Great Balls of Yarn and Beads Gone Wild

Dateline: Lake Worth, Florida, 3/19/08

This is not a knitting or beading trip. Jim and I are here to visit my mother, who for many years has spent her winters here and her summers in New York. For a long time I disliked south Florida, much preferring to visit my family in New York. For one thing, it wasn't possible to find a decent cup of coffee. I love coffee, but I like it very strong and flavorful, and I'd rather go without than drink coffee that I consider sub-standard. There's a yarn store not far from my mother's house, but the staff was not friendly to people like me who were not regular customers. And we couldn't seem to find many activities that appealed to us here. The area is full of strip malls and housing developments.

But over the years, things have improved a lot. There are now several Starbucks in the area, although they're nowhere near as prevalent as they are, say, in San Francisco or New York. Don't get me wrong; I don't think that Starbucks has the best coffee in the world. (Right now I would give that award to Gaylord's on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland.) But at least Starbucks is good, and consistent. While traveling I like to collect Starbucks the same way I collect yarn, and now beads. I wish I had thought of doing the Starbucks Everywhere blog.

The yarn store near my mother has changed hands and is now much friendlier. There's also a new chain of yarn stores, Great Balls of Yarn, which has no less than 5 locations in the area. My mother and I went to the flagship store in West Palm Beach and found a lot of upscale yarn, beautifully displayed by color. And what did I buy? A package of Twisted Sisters beads! Things have really changed when I can go to a great yarn store and not buy any yarn.

I wasn't so restrained at a fantastic bead store, Crystal Creations Bead Institute, which also has a website called Beads Gone Wild. I bought a bracelet kit, several bead weaving patterns, a toggle clasp in the shape of infinity, and of course some beads. This store has lots of great classes, almost making me wish I lived in the area and could take classes there. My sister-in-law Mary Beth is catching the beading bug from me, and bought some beads too. My 8-year-old nephew Max and my mother were both bored and kept urging us to finish our bead shopping and go home.

For non-shopping activities, we've found some nature walks that we enjoy in the area. This time we went to Green Cay Wetlands, which has a very nice boardwalk that enables you to see lots of birds and other wildlife. We saw turtles and even an aligator. Mary Beth is a bird watcher and particularly enjoyed this walk.

City Place, the Santana Row of West Palm Beach, is the antidote for all those strip malls. It has lots of chain stores, now two Starbucks, movie theaters, and several good restaurants. We ate at Legal Seafood, which used to be one of our favorite restaurants when we lived in the Boston area. It's now all over the east coast, and a lot more upscale than when we used to wait in line for hours at Inman Square in the 70's.