Another loss

So after two grandmothers passed away in the Spring, I thought was done for awhile. A naive notice but it really was just more of hoping than anything else. It didn't happen.

In mid November my step-father passed away unexpectedly. I always thought of Frank as more of my mother's husband and a friend than a father figure. I dont mean that statement in a negative manner. I feel that way because they got together when I was in my twenties and never see them a handful of times per year and he wasn't that much older than me (Mom married a younger guy this time around). And it doesn't mean I was any less saddened by the news. It sounds selfish, but he provided me with a piece of mind knowing my mom was being cared for. He is gone and its way too soon.

Frank was a good guy with a great heart who loved and took care of my Mother. His enthusiasm for NASCAR and Michigan Wolverines could be a bit overwhelming at times as could his good natured joking, but he was never malicious and very entertaining.

The man will be missed greatly by family and friends.

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I am so behind on blogging. No sure how people find the time to these things on the side. But since I enjoy writing it will keep at it.

Anyways, late October I traveled for work to Minneapolis. I've drove through the city and I have flown into the city's airport but never actually spent time here. For the most part I was pleasantly surprised.  

I have worked in many convention centers in my career. And Minneapolis has a huge and very nice one located downtown.  One of the first things I noticed when walking around the area was how clean everything is. It's not necessarily new buildings or streets but it all looks so darn up kept and inviting.

The second thing I noticed is all the city artwork on display. Countless statues and buildings with awe inspiring paintings on the side.

Happy Gnome
There is also a lot of great food and drinks to be had here. As any foodie would tell you. I ate well and drank better.

I got to cross another famous beer bar off my list when I was able to get out to theThe Happy Gnome in St. Paul. An amazing place which lived up to it's expectation.

A couple other interesting food and drink joints I wondered into were 8th Street Grill and Taphouse, Devils Advocate Bar, Market BBQ, Brit's Pub & Eating Establishment. All had delicious food and a fine beer selections.

The show I worked had long hours, as usual, and I didn't get to explore much other than the few blocks surround the convention and my nearby hotel. There were plenty of other places I wanted to check out. 

I was also unprepared for the first snow fall of the year. It got very cold for a few days as the white stuff littered the ground and building tops. Also found Minneapolis to be a rather expensive city. More so than I would have expected. I will know this for next time and I want to come back and explore more... only in the Summer though.


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My Favorite Albums (The Final Ten)

By now, you should know the drill. If not, then go look at past posts.
Let's recap the previous 40 albums...

ACDC - Back In Black (1980)
Aerosmith - Get Your Wings (1974)
Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)
Black Keys - El Camino (2011)
Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me (2006)
The Cult - Sonic Temple (1989)
Dead Man's Bones - Dead Man's Bones (2009)
Def Leppard - Hysteria (1987)
Father John Misty - Fear Fun (2012)
Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (1974)
Foo Fighters - Wasted Light (2011)
Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten (2012)
Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales (2001)
Jack White - Blunderbuss (2012)
Jimmy Eat World - Invented (2010)
Kills - Blood Pressures (2011)
Kings of Leon - Youth and Young Manhood (2003)
Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti (1975)
Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986)
Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antartica (2000)
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (1970)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads (1996)
Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)
NWA - Straight Outta of Compton (1988)
Outkast - Stankonia (2000)
Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power (1992)
Pearl Jam - Ten (1991)
Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R (2000)
Queensryche - Empire (1990)
Blood Sugar Sex Magic (1991)
Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers (1971)
Run DMC - Raising Hell (1986)
Soundgarden - Down On the Upside (1996)
Stone Temple Pilots - Core (1992)
Tenacious D - Tenacious D (2001)
Toadies - Rubberneck (1994)
Tom Waits - Closing Time (1973)
White Stripes - Elephant (2003)
Who - Who's Next (1971)

And now, the final ten...

Guns and Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987)

This classic album was a huge part of high school years. I remember hearing it about a year before it became popluar because at the time my Aunt was in college. I still jam out to "Rocket Queen" and "Paradise City", but the album boast one great song after another.

Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine (1992)

I was a freshman in college when this album exploded its heavy riffs and rap infused political lyrics on the airwaves. It left a deep impression on my young mind. And "Killing In The Name", "Freedom", and "Know Your Enemy" still gets me pumped up. Simply an amazing album.

Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dreams (1993)
This is the one Pumpkin album I can listen to over and over again. It's enchanting grooves always puts me in a calm and almost hypnotic state of mind. "Today" remains one of all time favorite songs.

Band of Horses - Infinite Arms (2010)

Band of Horses has become of my favorite bands of the last few years. The band's country-rock roots shine through on this album is one that hits all the right spots with songs like "Older", "Laredo", "Factory", and more.

Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest For the Wicked (1988)

I had to do a toss up between this album and Blizzard of Ozz. This album was the first with Zak Wyld at the lead guitar helm and it proves to be the strongest since the Ozzman's debut. Hard guitar riffs and Ozzy's trademark vocal ring in "Hero", "Fire In the Sky", and "Breaking All the Rules".

Candlebox - Candlebox (1993)

Yet another strong debut album from a group who hit it big during my college years. Maybe thats why I still enjoy this album so much. One of grunge rock unsung heroes go out on song "Far Behind", "Change", and every other song on the album. A fantastic effort from a great time in my life.

Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced? (1967)

If you want balls out guitar pulsating in your ear drums, then look no furter then the legendary Jimi Hendrix. He only three studio albums before his demise but the effect the man left on rock shall never be forgotten. Almost every song on this album is a hit with "Hey Joe", "Foxy Lady", "Purple Haze", "Fire", and "Manic Depression."

The National - High Violet (2010)

The National is a band I gotten into the couple of years and it was "Bloodbuzz, Ohio" which led me down that path. Matt Berninger's deep, haunting voice soothes my brain.

Saliva - Every Six Seconds (2001)

An album that clashes metal guitars with rap style singing. The catchy lyrics and songs helped it become a popular album of its time. For me it's more of a guilty pleasure, but damned if I still dont like "Click, Click Boom", "Superstar", and "My Goodbyes".

Audioslave - Audioslave (2002)
When you combine the amazing vocals of Chris Cornell with Rage Against the Machine band members you get an interesting combination. But it's one that kicks ass. From the opening helicopter sounds on "Cochise" to the soothing exit of "The Last Remaining Light" there is not a dud on the album. I have listened to it hundreds of times and it never gets old.

That's it...
maybe next year I'll do a top 100 songs. I think that list may be easier.

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Traveling Man Part II - Heading Home

On my return home I decided to come a different route. I wanted to knock out a few more states that I have never been through. The route was going to be Washington, Montana, North Dakota, down to Iowa and home.

outside Seattle
Traveled up the highway of Washington to the outskirts of Seattle before jumping on I-94 to head East. I toyed with staying in the city for a day but opted for a couple of days in Montana instead. Seatle is always a more likely return due. This is more of what I imagined the Pacific Northwest to be like with small mountains and trees as far as one can see. It was rather beautiful.

After a few hours I entered the northern part of Idaho, which surprised me as it was very different from the southern part of the state. You go through some major mountainous territory. And it continous as you enter Montana. But again, it was breathtakingly beautiful. I should have made a couple stops but by the time I hit Missoula, it was close to twelve hours on the road and getting dark.

I pulled in my room at the Red Lion, which may be my new hotel of choice when out West, showered and hit the town. Missoula is small town which seems to cater to outdoors types and The Univeristy of Montana. My first stop was at Tamarack Brewing Co. for food and drink. A nice selection of brews as a sampled a bourbon vanilla stout (which was one of the best things I drank on my trip) and ate some tasty fish. 

 Afterwards, with my belly full, I walked around the downtown area for a bit and made my into a bar called The Iron Horse Brew Pub which had about twenty different types of beer on tap, most from the Northwest. I had a couple more and felt very tired despite only being 10:30pm. Back to the hotel I went for sleep.

The other place in Montana I wanted to stop was Billings. It was only a five hour drive so I slept in and took my time before leaving. This town has a huge beer culture and I wanted to check it out. I drove and at somepoint during this short drive I feel in love with the state of Montana.
Montana Brewing Company
Angry Hanks
Carter's Brewing
After checking into the Dude Ranch Motel, my first stop was at Montana Brewing Company and had a late lunch consisting of a macoroni and cheese dish and a Custer's Last Stout, both hit the spot. After one more, it time to head to the next brewery, Angry Hank's. This place is only a brewery and due state law, has a three beer limit. I had three, all of which I cannot complain about as they tasted good. My next stop was Carter's Brewing
which ended up being my favorite, and last stop of the night. Here I cozied up to the small bar and ordered a sampler. Chatted up with the awesome bartender, who I quickly became smittened with, and a couple of regulars from town. I also found out another state law. Not only to breweries have a three beer limit, but they close at 8pm during the week. If I would have known this before I would have left Missoula earlier than I did. I drank my limit and stayed until closing. The Carter de Saison was great! Unfortunately, my pub crawl came to a screeching halt. I could have found a bar to sample more but I had been pounding top notch beers for four hours and was feeling good. So I decided to go back to hotel. An early start for Fargo, North Dakota was in the near future.

At the crack of dawn I pulled away from Billings and headed East once again. The scenery remained outstanding Montana and as I crossed into North Dakota it remained. I came across a sign that had a scenic look out. I needed to stretch so I pulled into Teddy Roosevelt National Park Lookout. This turned out to be one of the best part of the trip as it overlook the Painted Canyon. I just stopped and stared for minutes. I was speechless at this amazing landscape. Pictures dont do it justice. This reminded me that once in awhile, you need to stop and take in the view.
Painted Canyon
I continued my drive across North Dakota with thoughts swirling around my head. Fargo was a good point of stoppage and place I wanted to stay simply because of the Coen brothers movie of the same name. Imagine my disappoinment when not one "Don'cha know" was said to me. Once checked into the hotel, I did my usual... walk around and fine a place to eat decent food and drink decent beer. I found this place called Sickies Garage.
Sickies Garage
It's a burger joint and craft beer bar. Very good selection on tap, roughly thirty. It's a very cool layout too with a few booths having their own tap where you can pour your own and get charged by use. Since there was no room at the bar I found a table and ordered a jalapeno burger with tator tots and an Alaskan Raspberry Wheat, Big Wood Brewery Morning Wood, and a Lucky Bucket Cowbell Saison. I was content and weary from the road. At this point, I was ready to be home and had my fill of driving.

Once again I pulled out at dawn leaving Fargo in my rearview mirror and soon crossed the over the Minnesota state line. I made the decesion to head down to Des Moines, Iowa and stay the night since I had to stop over night one more time unless I wanted 15 hours in a vehicle. And I did not.

Again, it was a short drive day at about seven hours. My first stop in the DM was at burger joint called Zombie Burger which is an awesome idea. The decor is unique with movie posters and zombie art work. The burgers are uniquely named combonations of awesomeness. And dont forget a thick, delicious shake should you stop here. And you should stop here and make it a destination.
Zombie Burger

With my lunch and zombie fix satisfied I checked into the hotel and made my way to a one of the nation's top beer bar's, El Bait Shop. This place is amazing. A interesting look on both the exterior and interior with about hundred taps of rotating greatness. This is another definite stop for beer lovers. In my few hours there I tried a Backpacker First Anniversary Stout, Goose Island Big John, Goose Island Night Stalker, West O Red, and Tallgrass Brewing Velvet Rooster. It was Friday and I was feeling good. But it was off to another reknown beer bar Royal Mile. The place is known for European beers but honestly, I was a tad disappointed with the selection. I had a bottle of  Salopian Entire Butt Porter and was very buzzed. While walking back to the hotel I remembered about Belgium Bar upstairs. Damn.
El Bait Shop

Royal Mile

Once again it was rising at dawn and hitting the highway. Eight hours later I was home. And glad to be back.

This ended up being a great trip. One that I will remember for a long time. I am convinced if a person wanted to get lost and start over in obscurity they could do it in parts of Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, or Montana. Doesn't necessarily sound like a bad thing either.

With this trip I have now either drove through part of or flew into a city in each of the 48 continential states of the USA. Not too shabby but there are still lots of parts to explore. Heads up Alaska and Hawaii...
I'm coming for you too!

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Portland, OR: The Return

Belmont Station

I had a couple of hours to kill before getting to the hotel. I decided to stop in at Belmont Station for a little bottle shopping as their selection is amazing. A first class bar adjoins the bottle shop so a quick sip of a Cigar City-Widmer Brothers collaboration called Gentlemen's Club and banter with the bartender was in store. I thought about the Horse Brass Pub for lunch which was just down the road but parking is damn near impossible with a Sprinter van. Instead I headed to the hotel hoping they could park me early.

Upon arrival at the hotel and after the business of getting the van parked, contacting the client, and getting checking into the room; it was time to hit the downtown area of Portland. My first destination was for a late lunch and drinks at Deschutes Brewery.

Deschutes Brewery

It was happy hour and packed but I managed to squeeze in at the bar. Started out with a sampler tray of brews. The tilted back a Black Butte XXV Porter which was outstaning (should have bought a bottle to bring home) and a sampler tray with Saison De Perle, Twilight Summer Ale, Obsidian Stout. The food was also excellent. I had a brasied pork belly. A few more beers entered my system. A nice brewery with quality. Maybe soon they will start distributing to Indiana.

I left the brewery with another destination in mind, but was sidetracked by this huge bookstore taking up almost a city block, Powell's Books. This place was the biggest bookstore I have ever stepped in. Multiple floors with tall racks upon racks of new and used books of every variety. Time escaped me as I wandered the aisles just gazing and searching for nothing particular. I walked out with a couple of purchases and then it was time to fill another craving, Voodoo Doughnut.

I dont care how trendy this establishment has become to tourists or how much locals crave them because they make a damn tasty donught. I bought a couple new to me flavors for breakfast (Diablos and Mango Tango) and one for the road (Voodoo Doll). On the way back to the hotel, I grabbed a slice of Thai pizza from Pizza Schmizza. Another day of travel and exploring was completed. Time for sleep as actual work came in the morning.

After work on my second day, I ventured the few short blocks down to Bailey's Taproom, another top beer bar in the nation and a bar I visited on my last time in town. This place is a techie and beer lovers dream. They had a digital display with all the tap listing, size of pour, and cost. Plus an Untappd feed scrolls across the top. But more importantly, an amazing and often changing selection. I had a few glasses which included a Fort George Rye Whiskey Cavitica Stout, Full Sail Chris's Summer Delight Berliner Weisse, Oakshire III-Tempered Gnome. On my way back to the hotel I found a food truck, one of many on this trip as the city embraces them with spots all over the city and lots of these establishments are wheels off for permanent location. I hit up a Mexican food cart and got a huge steak burrito. Full and very, very content it was time to go back to the hotel.

On my third day in town I managed to sneak away from lunch and found food truck scene a few blocks away. It's about one square block oarking lot with food trucks surrounding the perimeter. I had a Spam Musbi and Spicy Pork from Island Grill Hawaiian Barbeque. Another top notch food truck experience.

After work I decided to head to a brewery. And there are a plenty to choose from in Portland. I ended up at one close to the hotel called Tugboat Brewery (actually across the street from Bailey's). Its a small place with a laid back atmosphere. I tried two of the house brews with my favorite being a Russian Imperial Stout called Chernobyl. Also had a tasty Chinese Pork Tenderloin to eat from their unique menu.
Taps at Tugboat

Italian Cured Meat
  On the next day, one of the locals helpers I had for the set up raved about a sandwich place. When he ran there for lunc and grabbed us food. The place is Bunk Sandwiches and I had Italian Cured Meat. It's was great. I highly recommend it.

That night I ate dinner with the meeting planners at Pasta Pastaria. I am not a huge pasta fan but I like our clients and I wont turn down a chance for after work bonding with them. It's good for company. I had a five cheese lasagna and a Black Butte Porter. We had a good time. They called me an AV Ninja.

On the way back to the hotel I stopped in a store and I snagged a bottle of Ninkasi Vanilla Oatis Stout to sip on back in my room.

Yak Momos

It was the last day of the show. Luckily, I managed once again to sneak out for lunch again. A farmer's market was about a block away and I saw food being advertised. There were some interesting choices but I went with an item I have never had before.Yak Momos from Momo Cart which are steamed dumplings with yak meat. And there are incredible! Philly Cheesesteak from Steaks Fifth Avenue

One more night in the city. My first stop was a little store called Made In Oregon where I picked up a couple of bombers to take back home. I also wanted to go to a couple more beer destinations. So it was off to Rogue Publick House. The place was packed but once again I managed to grab a seat at the bar. I ate a trio of pork sliders, which were good. And had a Shakespeare Nitro Stout and a sampler tray because even though we get a lot of Rogue's back home there are some we do not. I had a CPT. Sig's NW Ale, Dirtoir Black Lager, 19 Original Colonies Mead, and Charlie 1981. And on my way back, once again I hit up Bailey's where several taps had changed. A Fort George Three Wiseman Oatmeal Stout (unbelievably good) and a 10 Barrel Brewing Ransom Imperial Stout crossed my lips.

By now it was getting late and I was feeling pretty good. So it was back to the hotel. I had to back and sleep. The road back home would come early.

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Traveling Man ... out to Portland, Oregon

I was sent out to Portland, OR at the beginning of August to work and manage the AV side if a conference for a client. It was the first time we've done this particular event though we work on other events throughout the year. Since the event was out West, it was decided that I would drive the gear and we would hire labor in Portland.

I didn't mind having the driving duty for two reasons. One: the equipment would all fit in a Sprinter van. This usually isn't the case and we are driving box trucks to the destination and following strict DOT regulations. None if that in a van. I could plan my route anyway I wanted (with in reason). Two: the drive to the Pacific Northwest is one of the few major routes in the US that I have never traveled.

I was excited and planned route around scenic sites I wanted to see and beer destinations I wanted to stop at. The way out took me to South Dakota into Wyoming through Yellowstone down to Idaho and finally into Portland. Four days to arrive.

My day one planned stop over night in Sioux Falls, SD. It was going to be a long day of driving. I got up early, after not being to sleep the night before due to over indulgence at the local beer festival and a long nap afterwards. I headed out around 7:30am and pushed hard throughout the day with Queens of the Stone and The White Stripes pumping out the speakers.

The drive took longer than I anticipated due to road construction from Chicago to Wisconsin and lots of traffic in the Wisconsin Dells area. I ready to stop by the time I hit the Minnesota state line but powered on. Around thirteen hours after my start time and a time zone switch, I arrived in Sioux Falls at dusk and stopped at the hotel I booked downtown.

I wanted to here for a particular reason. Monk's House of Ale Repute, a well known brew pub and one often rated on many best beer bars in America lists. Nothing taste better than beer and real food after a long drive with minimal stops.

I walked the few short blocks to the bar, which was not very busy even for a Sunday night. I saddled up at the bar and looked over the impressive beer menu with so many choices not available to me in Indiana. The bar had really laid back feel and a good layout. Darn good food too, I had Kobe beef kabobs. After a few beers consisting of  Left Hand Voodoo Stout, Lucky Bucket Certified Evil Porter, Gran Teton Howling Wolf Weisse, and Lake Front Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout. I wanted to walk around downtown more and see some of its offerings, but it was time to head back to hotel, clean up, and get sleep.

My day two designed stop was Cody, WY. I headed out early once again and started through the gorgeous scenery of South Dakota. The rolling hills are a thing of beauty and they go for miles. I noticed an unusal amount of motorcyles on the ride. I found out  it was the beginning of Bike Week in Sturgis, my planning I failed to find it out. Motorcycle traffic was heavy as I drove through the heart of it all. There were some very nice bikes but that is as close to to the spectacle as I ever want to get.

South Dakota
It thinned out a bit as I got into Wyoming. More luscious scenery entered my view as the miles passed. I got off the interstate to get to my destination, up into the Horn Mountains, and into the final stretch. Here is a tip, if one had even a remote feeling of having use a restroom, then stop in Sheridan, WY because there is no where to stop. I held my urine for nearly three hours before finding a gas station. Lesson learned: never pass up the opportunity to pee.

Horn Mountains
After twelve hours on the road, I pulled into Cody with the sun still in the sky, barely. This is a tourist town. The last major stop before Yellowstone and even beyond. It is expensive because it can be. The town is also historic due to Buffalo Bill Cody and has a rodeo every night. I was tempted to go but opted for food and drink at the Silver Dollar Bar where I had an Alaskan Amber, Madison River Copper John Scotch Ale, and Big Sky Moose Drool. On my way back to the over priced dumpy hotel, which served its purpose, I stopped in liquor store and bought a couple of bombers. The town was bustling with people. Again, I was whipped and a third long day of driving a head of me so I retired for the evening.

Morning came with the sun rising in my rearview and the great National forest ahead of me. The hour long stretch between Cody and Yellowstone is beautiful beyond words.
As I entered Yellowstone awe and wonderment filled me. I never realized it was mountainous (not sure why). I slowly drove through the giant pines and around Lake Butte soaking it all in with pure delight. I took my time and stopped often. I headed towards Jackson, WY and into the Gran Teton National Park each mile was more beautiful than the next. The Tetons are simply breath taking.Words cant do justice what I was seeing.

Gran Tetons
 The main reason for stopping in Jackson was Thai Me Up!, an award winning micro brewery and Thai food restaurant. Since I enjoyed both it seemed like a no brainier. Jackson is another huge tourist town and basically the first town after Cody. It is very busy in the summer and not the best place to find parking for an extended length van. I almost gave up finding a space when one appeared. I swung in and walked to the restaurant/brewery just as it was opening for lunch.

Thai Me Up
The combo of Thai Me Up provides seems odd but works very well. I had delicious green curry and two fine beers Mayhem and Big Country.
With lunch and lots of water in my belly there was still plenty of driving to do before I retired in Boise. Off I slowly drove up into the Tetons and came out in the back roads of Idaho before cutting over to Idaho Falls and back onto the interstate. 

While this day was tremendous with nature after nearly eight hours of slow back road driving, I was ready to lay the pedal to the floor. I was already exhausted and still had over three hours until Boise. This was the longest stretch of the trip out.

I did make it though and stopped at the Red Lion in downtown for the night. I had every intention of walking around and seeing Boise. But I was wiped out from three days of twelve hour plus of driving, sun burned from driving with the bright sun, and simply tired. When I saw the hotel bar with seven taps handles and a menu, I knew this would be my only stop of evening.

And it was the only stop. Food entered my system followed by local beers Salmon River Big Buzz Coffe Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, and Sockeye Amber. Then nightly drill of showering and sleep followed.

The next morning I awoke early once again at daybreak. With only seven hours to go until Portland, I headed out. Part of plan was to get there mid afternoon and park the vehicle so I could spend the rest of the day exploring the city. The terrian of Southern Idaho was nice with the hills, mountains, forest, and Snake River running all about the state, I was pleasently surprsed. But not as surprised as wait awaited me in Southern Oregon.

In my mind, I always thought of Oregon and Washington as entire states of nothing but thick, dense forest. But Southern Oreogon was so much more diverse and beautiful than I could ever imaged. As a drove on the interstate which was once The Oregon Trail, the desert like mountains turned into plateaus and eventually into hills and mountains of trees as I followed the Columbia River into Portland.

I stopped at a rest area just outside of the city. I had made great time this morning and was early. It was only noon and couldn't park the van until 2pm. I knew of places to go to stall time and hopped back in the van. The city of Portland awaited my arrival.

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Observation of An Illogical mind by Sean Kimmel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Please feel free to share the link but contact me for any other uses or publication. Thanks.