Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tripping The Light Fantastic In A Pacific Oregon Wood

Taking The Road Less Traveled Is Always Better

After the R&R we enjoyed at Margot's Bright Airy Studio In The Trees, we continued our 40th Anniversary Celebration with a relatively short three hour drive through Southern Oregon to our ultimate destination in the  small coastal town of Port Orford. As we left I-5 behind and headed west to the coast via State Road 38, the diversity of this beautiful state afforded constantly changing views of forested mountains, farmlands, moose laden plains and mountainous sand dunes seemingly in the middle of nowhere. And the views of natural beauty only increased as we headed south on the famous  US Route 101-Pacific Coast Highway, which runs through Washington and Oregon all the way to Southern California. Some may need a little Dramamine to handle the twist and turns, but we were so enamored with the constantly changing scenery, the thought of motion sickness never entered our minds.
And the town of Port Orford makes certain that you will not miss the "big picture". As you enter this small enclave of 1,200 citizens, it's impossible to miss the word "OCEAN VIEW" painted in twelve foot high letters  on the pavement  with a giant arrow pointing up a very steep hill. As you arrive at the crest of the hill, there before you is one of the most breathtaking sites of the Pacific shoreline you will ever encounter. WOW-WOW-WOW and WOW!!!

How About A Late Lunch?

After catching our breath from our first introduction to the beautiful Southern Oregon coastline, we decided to see about lunch. In a town the size of Port Orford, one would not expect to find many fine food establishments. Not so fast my friend! Our first taste of this small fishing village with a definite sense of style was fish and chips at The Crazy Norwegian. Entirely fresh and all good, this little hole in the wall eatery serves real, fresh expertly prepared seafood. Don't be thrown off by this little place's humble exterior. The food served inside its even more humble interior is second to none.

After lunch, we headed onto the loop road that leads to the place we would be staying for the next four days, Wild Spring Guest Habitat. Turning into the gravel drive of this smallest of places to sleep for Incurable Romantic Nomads, I knew right away that we had landed on Planet Nirvana. Wild Spring is not so much a hotel, and it certainly is not a typical B&B. It is, in fact, exactly as its web site describes:

WildSpring is a small, eco-friendly resort in Port Orford, 60 miles north of California. Private and secluded, on five acres of old Native American grounds, it offers comfortable luxury in a naturally beautiful environment.

Four days at Wild Spring  reinforces the notion that places like this  make travel worth the sometimes onerous planes, trains and automobiles we have to use to actually get to places like this little piece of God's country.  

Tripping The Light Fantastic - Art, Nature and Nirvana Achieved

According to writers who concern themselves with such things, Tripping The Light Fantastic involves dancing nimbly or lightly - moving in a pattern to musical accompaniment. In various iterations, this phrase has been used by writers and playwrights from Milton to Shakespeare. Now I am not one to go all metaphysical on my legions of Nomad fans, but, hear me when I tell you -  Wild Spring Guest Habitat brings out your ability to "dance on your toes", at least metaphorically, if not literally. The unique combination of towering trees, cool gentle breezes, local sculpture, found art work and the smell of the Pacific make for a perfect place to achieve something so rare in this insane world of warp speed living and 24 hour bad news cycles - real peace and tranquility - Nirvana.

After a day of beach walking, art gallery hopping, coastal road tripping or just enjoying the many attributes of this amazing Pacific wood - they even have a  Walking Labyrinth for those inclined to get centered or dizzy, depending on your perspective - the five elegant cabins make a definitive statement that Wild Spring is all about quality, design and pure comfort. From the love seats in the small living room to the large tiled shower to the comfortable pillow-top beds, these eclectic, art filled cabins provide all the comforts any Nomad needs for rest and sweet dreams. In keeping with the eco-friendly concept of this unique property, the cabins are heated with in-floor radiant heating to ensure toasty comfort at night when the temps get in the low fifties. With a roomy front porch, complete with rocking chairs and strategically placed outdoor furniture, these intimate modern casitas in this small forest can be enjoyed to the fullest extent morning, noon and night. And best of all - no telephones or television. They do have a small flat screen you can watch movies from their extensive DVD library if you so choose, but in this place, what would be the point? To ensure absolute privacy and relaxation, you never see the creators/owners of this great place, except at breakfast or if you need something, which you can request via the in-room intercom.

Nomads Need More Than Just A Well Appointed Cabin In The Wood - They Gotta Eat!

The great southern comic Brother Dave Garner said "Man does not live by bread alone, he must have peanut butter". Well, even though we didn't eat any peanut butter, The owner recently informed ME that they do have Skipper Super Chunky and Adams Organic of one of life's necessities, metaphorically and otherwise. The daily morning feast provided was delicious and healthy to ensure every resident Nomad got their day started with a proper meal. In addition to a freshly prepared hot dish - frittata, quiche, bacon, etc. etc. etc., - the spread included fresh fruit, bagels, muffins, yogurt and home made cinnamon scones that would win any Nomad's hungry heart. And this daily ritual is served in a well appointed "Guest House", complete with an eclectic array of comfortable furniture and an ample deck overlooking the Pacific. The Guest House, in keeping with the eco-centric design of the place, is a short two minute walk through the forest from the cabins. Of course they have a full kitchen for preparation of food for other meals if you so desire.

One of the great features of staying in such a small place is the opportunity to talk with the people who conceived it and operate it with an obvious passion and true concern for their patrons' well being. In talking with an owner of a place like Wild Springs, you get a kind of personal history of how such a unique property came to be. As an architect, I was not only impressed with the site and the buildings, but also the design approach and eco-sensitive methods of construction used to keep intact the natural beauty that drew the owners to this piece of land in the first place. Adherence, both architecturally and ecologically, to sustainable and environmentally sensitive design ensures that Wild Spring will remain true to its ethos of high quality and low impact.

You Heard It Here - Port Orford Has Great Food, Great Music and World Class Art

In addition to the great digs at Wild Spring, this part of the Pacific coast is like Big Sur for Cheap Nomads. Big Sur, as amazing - and expensive - as it is, has nothing on the Southern coast of Oregon. And, in comparison to Central California, the prices here will make you and your bank account feel better. In addition to incredible natural beauty, the small fishing village of Port Orford has great food, great music and numerous art galleries to suit big and small pocketbooks - everything a wandering Nomad needs to eat, drink and be merry. In addition to The Crazy Norwegian, if fine dining is what you seek, then Free Range Oregon Chicken Supreme & Prawns on White Truffle Polenta with Sangria Buerre Blanc and Broccolinni at Redfish will fill the bill. They have killer steaks too. A small, progressive jazz/folk trio from Texas provided a nice accompaniment to a fabulous meal with a front row seat overlooking the rugged Pacific coast.

With over sixteen different artists displaying work in a variety of media,  a must visit for serious art collectors and enthusiasts  (people who love art with no money to spend on it)  is The Hawthorne Gallery. There are numerous other galleries featuring work by mostly local artists as well. And one of the most unique art installations ever conceived is a short drive north from Port Orford in the small seaside town of Bandon. The Washed Ashore Art Project features massive sculptures constructed entirely of various debris, plastic and otherwise, found in the ocean. It's both a fascinating look at the creative use of found trash and a disturbing reminder of the carelessness and stupidity of human beings who think the ocean is their personal garbage can.

After enjoying one of the USA's most beautiful places and enjoying the natural luxury of Wild Spring Guest Habitat, this inspiring piece of God's Country is near the top of The Nomad Architect's Places To Sleep Before You Die. And best of all - not a single Atlanta Bread Company in site (See previous post -Blazing The Nomad Oregon Trail( Part One) !
Traveling with a real Nomad makes life better every day - I just want to say thanks to Susie - my companion near and far for forty years. Wandering without you just never crosses my mind. I love you in every language. 

Wander With The One You Love Nomads,
D.L. Stafford

Travel Quote of The Week -  “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” Paul Theroux - Think about that one for awhile.

Video Artist of The Week - Chuck Mangione - Simply put - the man can blow!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blazing The Nomad Oregon Trail - Madison to Atlanta to Portland to Eugene to Nirvana

Everything You Ever Thought About Atlanta International Is True

Because we were flying Southwest, we drove from God's Country to Atlanta to begin our 40th Anniversary Celebration Trek.  Atlanta Airport - Beelzebub's Foyer. Whatever moniker you choose to reference the world's second worst airport - Heathrow being numero uno - flying out of Atlanta is for people who just want to  prove they can take it. I bring this up to simply acknowledge what all travel weary Nomads know. Flying is much like riding Greyhound with wings, except that it takes much longer to board. And flying out of Atlanta is egalitarianism at its best - Everybody feels like a schmuck. After ordering my bride to "stand directly in front of the podium" to check her boarding pass, the TSA Nazis decided that we were, indeed, not members of The Taliban and directed us to the queue for Checkpoint Charlie. After putting our clothes back on, we decided to eat an early breakfast at Atlanta Bread Company. What can one really say about Atlanta Bread Company in Atlanta International Airport? Just a thought - If you have a choice between Atlanta Bread Company and simply picking food to eat from a random garbage can - lift the lid and dig in! Atlanta Bread is that bad.
After experiencing the indignity of the world's busiest airport you 
come to appreciate Nietzsche's admonition "That which does not kill 
us makes us stronger". Still alive and maybe a wee bit stronger, we boarded our flight for Portland and the stress of the early morning began to dissipate. Southwest manages to make flying, if not enjoyable, at least tolerable. The flight attendants do their best to make you smile and forget the fact that you are sitting in a seat designed for vertically challenged anorexics. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the gourmet nuts and cheese crackers. Unlike the other majors, Southwest still gives you stuff. After a plane change in Phoenix, we landed in Portland for the first leg of our week in "The Beaver State".
As we made our way south through the Willamette Valley along I-5, which runs from Canada to Mexico,  I was struck by its greenness. The flat, broad valley, surrounded by extensive mountain ranges east and west,  boasts extensive farmlands, cattle ranches and numerous wineries to provide a picturesque drive unusual for interstate travel. After most of the day in airports and planes, it was nice to have a relaxing drive to our first night's destination in Eugene. 
AIRBnB - Proof That Nomads Can Have Their Cake & Eat It Too
After following and reading about  AIRBnB for a couple of years, I decided to take the plunge and check out what is fast becoming one of the most popular sites for budget minded travelers. This site is for people who refuse to settle for the "cheapest & cleanest" and revel in the unique but don't want to break the bank. It has everything from ten dollar couches in Tallahassee to three bedroom villas in the heart of Barcelona. Featured widely in print and television media, AIRBnB is proving to be the go to place for outstanding value for quality seeking travelers. One word of caution - Do your homework. Unlike other boutique hotel web sites such as I-Escape or Tablet, AIRBnB does not perform professional reviews of accommodations so you have to be thorough in your search. All reviews are by former guests. According to AIRBnB, reviews cannot be removed by property owners, so what you read are honest evaluations by real travelers. 
If you follow travel sites at all, you know guests can be brutal in their assessments. If the ice machine doesn't work, or the concierge was not the most accommodating, travelers will let you know about it in no uncertain terms. So, if you find mostly positive reviews of a place on AIRBnB, you can be fairly certain that you will be staying in a place that will meet your expectations.  You can also email the owner with any questions you may have about their place.  I have found owners to be very responsive and helpful. And, last but not least, in this age of banality, especially in the travel industry, it is refreshing to find great places to sleep where there is personal involvement by owners who want your stay at their place to be memorable.
And Margot Made Sure It Was Memorable
Entrepreneurial Boutiquers like Margot help ensure that AIRBnB will remain a force in high expectation travel for discerning Nomads. From the moment I knocked on the door of their artfully designed main house, designed by her architect husband, I knew we had arrived at a place that was going to prove my instincts correct. Nestled amongst a leafy green neighborhood of reclaimed and re- imagined houses, mostly from the forties and fifties, the place just felt right. Upon entering the Bright Airy Studio In The Trees, our expectations were confirmed. Immaculately detailed from the base boards to the large exposed beam supporting a vaulted ceiling, this place has it all. The expansive windows and large skylights over the platform bed ensure that this high quality sleeping place lives up to its billing. A small sitting area with a lounge recliner, a small euro bathroom and a nice kitchenette completed the interior of this welcomed retreat for two very jet lagged Nomads. There was also a small deck for sitting and enjoying the tops of the trees that surround  the studio. And the price would warm the cockles of any Cheap Nomad's heart - $75!
And then there was Margot. The concierge at the Ritz has nothing on this girl. After greeting us and showing us to the studio, we had a personal introduction to the amenities of her unique property, as well as the surrounding area, which is very close to the University of Oregon campus. The neighborhood has a great vibe and considerable architectural merit as well. In addition, Margo had several recommendations for dinner, including a small Italian eatery Beppe and Gianni's Trattoria. The food was to die for and the service was fabulous. After dinner we returned exhausted and had a great night's sleep in the very comfy bed in the studio. The next morning, we awoke to find fresh, hot scones in  a basket outside our door from Margot. In addition, the fridge had yogurt, OJ, organic coffee, granola and other items to make a nice, fresh meal for two Nomad's ready to head to the coast for the week. Margot was nowhere in site, as she had told us she goes kayaking every morning at 6:30. Did I mention that people in Oregon love the outdoors? As we packed up and headed for the coast, Atlanta International became a distant memory.
Coming to you from a balcony on the beach - Hilton Head South Carolina. Next up - Nirvana at Wild Springs Guest Habitat and the Oregon Coast.
D.L. Stafford

Travel Quote of The Week - "Eugene is located in Western Oregon, approximately 278 billion miles from anything" - Dave Barry

Video Artist of The Week - Marcus Roberts - Called "the genius of the modern piano" by none other than Wynton Marsalis, this native of Jacksonville and Florida State University Professor of Music is one of the true greats of jazz working today.