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.
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