Friday, August 20, 2010


Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Graand Kinetic Challenge entrant

When we started planning this trip, it was because I wanted to be in Sisters, Oregon on July 10 for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. We also wanted to go to San Francisco, see the redwoods and the coast, and also go to Portland. While researching, I discovered DaVinci Days, a festival held in Corvallis that honors Leonardo DaVinci. And part of this festival includes a Kinetic Sculpture Race called the "Graand Kinetic Challenge" (yes, 2 'A's in Graand). This sounded intriguing and it was held the weekend after the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, so we decided to extend the trip a few days and check this out.

Scott with some "interactive" intergalactic artwork

This was a really fun event (although I might be a little bias as the weather was really nice). In some ways it seemed like a science fair for college students and you could say that it was a festival for geeks, but it was really entertaining.

The event is held on the campus of Oregon State University. Most of the events took place inside the green space that is between 14th St., Monroe Ave., 11th St., and Jefferson Ave. The performances, food, and exhibits were all here, and there is an admission charge.

This is "Astro Chicken" (I'm not sure what all the sparkles are, but the automatic focus on the camera seemed distracted by them) part of the community art section that was located outside the festival area, in the green space just east of the main area.

The community art was made by individuals and groups before the festival and then displayed during the weekend. The theme for this year was “Space Odyssey.”

Unlike the community art, the sidewalk chalk art was created on Saturday while we watched. It was amazing how deep some of the colors were.

Registered participants are given a box of chalk and a concrete square and have three hours to create a sidewalk masterpiece.

West of the main area was the Grand Prix Electrathon. Electrathon race vehicles run on standard car batteries. The competition is based on speed and energy use.

Racers compete for the greatest number of laps around the 0.8 mile racecourse in one hour without recharging. There are specific specs the cars and the batteries have to meet in order to compete.

They had several hands-on exhibits geared towards kids that allowed them to learn that science can be fun, and there were exhibits promoting eco-friendly building, composting and alternative-fuel vehicles. There were several places at the festival that had trash bins, and also recycle bins and composting bins. Volunteers were there to teach you what can be recycled and what can be composted. The food vendors used plant-based plastics that will eventually compost.

There were also several performers including Rhys Thomas, a comedian and juggler who uses humor and juggling to explain gravity, centripetal force and air resistance.

The Main Event : The Graand Kinetic Challenge

Black Tie Affair, 2010 Grand Champions

A Kinetic Scupture is defined human-powered amphibious all-terrain works of art. It’s art on wheels.

Zorba the Zuke, won 1st place in the time category (2 hrs, 1 min) and 1st place in the engineering category

And the race is much more than a race. It is an unusual art show, a presentation of a team song, a parade and pageantry.

Blue and Fuchsia Giraffe, won 3rd place in the time category (3 hr, 44 min) and 3rd place in the engineering category

The race itself is run in different legs but requires racers to ride over 10 miles of city streets, over a man-made sand dune, across 3000 feet of sun-dried, clay pasture, through 200 feet of deep, thick, sticky mud, and down 2 miles of the Willamette River. All of this under pedal power, and usually in costumes.

Lobster Claus, won 3rd place in the pageantry category, top judges favorite, and best bribe

Of the 22 plus entrants, only 8 of them actually finished the race. Why do they do this? “For the glory!”

Kozmik Karavan

References :

To see more of my photos of DaVinci Days, go here: Corvallis and DaVinci Days on Flickr.

If you're interested in how some of the Kinetic Sculptures are put together, with comments on their construction, go to FiddlesWithBikes on Flickr. He is also the creator of the Kinetic Sculpture "Visualize Whirled Peas" which took 3rd Place in artistry.

Some other Kinetic Sculpture Races :

The annual World Grand Championship is held in Humboldt County, CA (Ferndale) on the last weekend of May.

The East Coast Championship takes place in Baltimore, MD in May.

The Kinetic SkulPTure Race is held in Port Townsend in October.

The Kinetic Sculpture Race takes place in Ventura, CA in October

The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby happens in Philadelphia, PA in May.

Corvallis Lodging and Dining :

We stayed at the Rodeway Inn in downtown Corvallis and again we were in a great location. Since we were in Corvallis for the DaVinci Days Festival, we wanted a motel within walking distance and the one we stayed at was .75 of a mile away. The back of the motel faces the Willamette River and the Riverfront Commemorative City Park which runs along the river. Had we been able to stay the whole weekend and saw the river part of the Kinetic Sculpture Race, they would have gone down the river right across from the motel.

This is also where you can find the funky boutiques, upscale restaurants and bars, and the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

The Farmer’s Market didn’t just have the locally-grown produce you’d expect, you could also get crepes and pancakes. We got some tayberries, which are a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry, and very yummy.

We also ate at the DaVinci Festival, and it wasn’t your standard food fair, there was ethnic food and also a salad with chicken, strawberries, cranberries and nuts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We really liked Portland, and found it easily walkable. Our motel was located just south of the Nob Hill neighborhood, east of Washington Park and a mile from the river. We were up a slight hill (nothing like in San Francisco), which gave us some good views of the city.

We were near several parks including Couch Park (above) and Washington Park. We drove through Washington Park but didn’t have time to really get out and explore it. It’s huge, and it also connects to other parks, which makes it seem even larger.

While we were walking we saw lots of interesting things including these brightly painted houses.

And several pieces of public art. This one even looked cool when the water wasn't on.

This one reminds me of the round, pink typing erasers with a brush on the end. And while there's are to see by just walking around Portland, there are also places to view more formal art.

Portland Art Museum : I must confess that we didn't go see the art at the Portland Art Museum as I wasn't especially interested in the special exhibits they had while we were there. I had a more personal reason to go there. I went to go to the gift shop because I was hoping to find some key chains or something with their initials (PAM), but they didn’t have anything like that.

Museum of Contemporary Craft : They were installing a new exhibit, so there wasn’t much to see, but the stuff in this gift shop was nice, although no key chains with their initials, either.

People’s Food Co-op : I even found public art at the People’s food co-op. This is a tree on the outside of the building (where they also have vegetation growing on the roof).

And here’s what the tree looks like on the inside with the light shining through the colored bottles. Now I'm trying to think of where we can do this on our house.

It’s always great to reconnect with old friends while on vacation, especially when they’re willing to show you the city and some of their favorite places. This is us with Todd (he and Scott knew each other at Wright State U.) and this is the food co-op where he’s a member. You can buy food there even if you aren’t a member.


Oregon Museum of Science and Industry : OMSI is really cool. They had some brain teaser puzzles that I enjoyed trying to solve, and lots of hand-on exhibits for kids of all ages including a replica of the Gemini space capsule that you can actually sit in. (At one of the motels a few nights earlier we saw “Apollo 13” which is one of my favorite movies.)

Scott explaining black holes to Einstein, or maybe he's telling him what he wants for Christmas.

The special exhibit at OMSI was about Einstein, which I was interested, although it did involve a lot of reading.


If you’re a quilter or a seamstress then no trip to Portland is complete without a stop at the Fabric Depot, which has 1.5 acres of fabric. I bought 1 full-yard and 14 quarter-yard cuts, and was only in the store for 1.5 hours. (What a patient husband I have.)

When I was getting the information about Portland together, it didn't seem like a lot. Then I realized that this part of the trip was about food and local beers. Be sure to check out my post on lodging and dining in Portland, and you'll also learn which places our friend Todd likes to go.


The motel we stayed at was in a great location. We stayed at the Park Lane Suites and Inn, on NW King St., close to the Nob Hill neighborhood. We were in the Inn across the street from the suites, and it looked like it was furnished entirely with Ikea items.

Added July 2017...

On our second trip back in July 2017 we stayed at the University Place Hotel & Conference Center, which is owned and operated by Portland State University. The decor was a little dated but it was clean and comfortable, and there was a light rail line right out front so it was convenient to downtown and to getting to the airport. They also had a decent free breakfast and we could rent a car without leaving the building, which we did on the second day so we could go to Cannon Beach.


Portland food carts : There are several places in Portland where they have lunch carts set up. The "pod" at Alder and 10th was walking distance from our motel. Scott wanted to stay in Portland for a month so he could try all the different food carts. When we went back in 2017 we went back to the same food truck "pod" and enjoyed it as much as we did the first time.

People's Food Co-op : If you already read the Portland Attractions post, I mentioned that we went to the People’s Food Co-op where our friend Todd is a member. Aside from selling healthy and organic food, they strive to sell locally-grown food, and even post photos of the farmers who grew the food. And even though we weren’t members, we could still buy food. Scott got some red raspberries that I ate before we even got to the car.

Blue Moon : the Blue Moon is one of the many pubs owned by McMenamis Breweries. Scott got a sampler board which he enjoyed, and he also really liked the veggie wrap he ordered.

Lucky Labrador : Todd took us to the Lucky Labrador, the Quimby location. They brew their own beer but don’t bottle it, so you have to go there if you want some. Scott again got a sampler board and he really liked these. I had the pear hard cider which was pretty good. We got the Greek pizza, but it was unmemorable.

Added July 2017...
When we went back to visit Todd in Portland, we met him downtown and over the course of about 9 or 10 hours we walked about three miles and ate at several places. It felt like we ate our way across Portland. We started at the food trucks mentioned above and also made a few other stops including:

Cool Moon Ice Cream : a locally owned business that makes yummy ice cream in many flavors, several are seasonal. I had the Marionberry and it was delicious. Todd had the Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Imperial Restaurant : someone recommended this to us before we left, saying that they had really good fried chicken. And you know what? They have really good fried chicken! Scott had the grilled Caesar salad and Todd had Duck Meatballs and they also shared the pickle plate.

Random Order Pie Bar : savory and dessert pies sold whole or by the slice. They also sell coffee and cocktails.

Want to know what to do in Portland besides eat? Check out my post on Portland attractions.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


We drove out to the Oregon coast, and started at the most northern point of Oregon and headed south. Our first stop was in Astoria, which is one of the oldest settlements west of the Rockies, and a key port that Lewis and Clark explored.

We climbed the 164 steps to the top of the 125-foot high Astoria Column. The exterior of the column shows a bas-relief sculpture depicting the history of the area.

The column is located on top of a hill and offers views of the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, Saddle Mountain and the Clatsop Plain. The suggested donation is $1 per car.


We headed south on US-101 and drove to Cannon Beach, which is a large, sandy beach, good for walking and making sandcastles.

Haystack Rock is a 235 feet tall monolith and is one of the largest "sea stacks" on America's Pacific coast. The rock is home to nesting seabirds in the summer and marine invertebrates all year long.


We continued driving south on US-101 and stopped at an overlook and saw this scene. I was very interested in the colors in the water: greenish closest to the shore, a lighter blue and then a deeper blue, and the purple where the cloud sits, obscuring the horizon. The clouds on the left side of the photo drape over the beach, like someone came along a “frosted” it with the cloud. I’m not sure where this photo was taken, but it was on US-101 somewhere between Cannon Beach and Depoe Bay. (Click on the photo to see a larger view, then click the Back button to come back to the blog.)


We continued south to Depoe Bay, where we stayed the night and also visited the Whale Watching Center.

Three miles south of Depoe Bay is Cape Foulweather. The building in the picture is the gift shop.

We also stopped at Devil’s Punchbowl State Park, in Otter Rock.

The punch bowl was probably created by the collapse of the roof over two sea caves.


Our final stop on the Oregon coast was at Sea Lion Caves, north of Florence. There are some stairs and then an elevator that take you down into the world’s largest sea cave, where you can watch the sea lions in their natural habitat. It’s a little smelly but still worth the $12 admission fee.

Lodging and Dining :

Crown Pacific Inn Depoe Bay : I picked this place because of the way it looked on the website. It had weathered shingles and balconies that faced the ocean, with just a road and trees between us and the ocean. It’s rocky here, so not actual beach access.

They also had fireplaces in the rooms, although it wasn’t cool enough for that, and also a hot tub. Close enough to walk to the Whale Watching Center, gift shops and restaurants.


Morris Fireside Restaurant, Cannon Beach : We ate breakfast here and I enjoyed both the food and the ambiance.

While we were in Depoe Bay, we enjoyed some ice cream flavors that we don’t find in Ohio. We liked both the Marionberry Pie ice cream and Mountain Huckleberry ice cream

To see more photos of the Oregon Coast, go here: Oregon Coast on Flickr

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Waterfalls in northwest Oregon

There are 2 great places to go to see waterfalls in northwest Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge and Silver Falls.

Wahkeena Falls

Columbia River Gorge : The western entrance to the Columbia River Gorge is at Troutdale, 20 minutes east of Portland. We exited SR 84 at Troutdale and followed the signs for the Historic Columbia River Highway (aka 30). It took us about 4 hours to drive the first 30-miles because we stopped to see the view lookouts and stop at 5 of the waterfalls. Most of the waterfalls can be seen from a short walk from the parking areas. I found that “The Best Gorge Map,” which I requested a copy of before we left for our trip, was a helpful resource for this area.

Our first stop was at Vista House, an octagonal stone structure which was built between 1916-18 as a memorial to Oregon pioneers, as a comfort station for those traveling on the Historic Columbia River Highway and as an observatory.

The Vista House offers amazing views looking down the Columbia River, and also of Washington state, which is on the other side of the river.

There is a visitor’s center, a small gift shop and bathrooms at the Vista House.

Next we stopped at Guy Talbot State Park and see the first waterfall along the Historic Columbia River highway.

A trail underneath the Historic Columbia River Highway bridge leads directly to the 250’ tall Latourell Falls.

Even the many bridges along the Historic Columbia River Gorge are picturesque.

Sheppards Dell Falls is the next waterfall along the highway.

The path is short and the view is worth it.

Bridal Veil Falls is located in Bridal Veil State Park. The lower trail takes you downhill to the base falls and is about a mile round, and is a little steep coming back. There is also a short, level trail that takes you through a prairie and offers view of the Columbia River.

Wahkeena Falls is the next stop. Wahkeena is a Yakima Indian word meaning “most beautiful.”

The most well known and popular spot is Mulnomah Falls. It is very tall and picturesque, with a lovely little stone bridge part way up. There is also a large restaurant and gift shop here.

We continued on to Cascade Locks and instead of going the rest of the 50-some miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway, we took the “Bridge of the Gods” toll bridge over the river and into Washington state. We headed back towards Portland, west on highway 14 which goes parallels the other side of the Columbia River. We stopped at Beacon Rock, the core of an ancient volcano. There is a steep, mile-long trail to the top but it was getting late in the day so we didn’t hike it.


Silver Falls State Park : this park is near Silverton, Oregon, and is an hour and a half south of Portland. It has a 9-mile trail aptly called the “Trail of 10 Falls” that takes you to 10 waterfalls. I wasn’t up for a 9-mile hike, so we started at the South Falls Lodge and walked 1 mile and back, going to what we thought might be the two more scenic waterfalls.
South Falls is 177 feet and is located fairly close to the South Falls Lodge, although the trail was steep at times. If you look close at the photo, you can see people on the trail.

You can walk behind South Falls.

Lower South Falls is 93 feet and almost a mile from South Falls.

You can walk behind Lower South Falls, also. You can see some people in the upper right corner of the photo.

To see more photos of Silver Falls, go here: Silver Falls on Flickr

To see more photos of the Columbia River Gorge, go here: Columbia River Gorge on Flickr