Friday, June 22, 2018

Doing Lincolny things in Springfield Illinois

In April we spent a weekend in Springfield marathon to visit with our friends Stan and Pam and for Holly to run in the Lincoln Presidential Marathon Half Marathon.  She had wanted to do this race for many years but the timing was never right.  Of course the year she finally pulls the trigger, they move away from their iconic penny style medal to a top hat style. Still nice, but not the same.   

We arrived in Springfield early-evening on Friday.   Unfortunately Holly had booked our room at the Hilton Springfield, MISSOURI instead of Springfield, ILLINOIS.  Apparently it happens all the time. Lucky for us they still had vacancy.  We did have to coordinate the front desk teams of two hotels to talk to one another so they wouldn’t charge us for the room in the next state.  After an Italian dinner in an old-school restaurant we walked a few blocks to have a beer at Obed and Isaac’s.  Their operations occupied several buildings on the block and they had prime real estate near the capital building and the Lincoln Home historic site.  The beer was good.

Saturday was race morning and it was cold.  Low 20’s with a bit of a windchill.   With our hotel a few blocks from the start the lobby was packed with runners trying to stay warm.  Pam and Dave saw no need to make their way to the start.  They chose to eventually make their way to Starbucks for breakfast and spectate at one spot before heading to the finish.   Holly was trying to beat a goal time and missed it by half a second.  Dave blames himself for being on the course, causing her to slow down for a few seconds.  The finish line after-party was on the grounds of the old capital building.  Abe and Mary Lincoln impersonators were out for photo opps and handed people pennies.  While we were in the finish area we happened to be standing near the shirt exchange table (trade in your shirt for a new one if the one you picked up did not fit).   The man working the table left which gave people the idea the shirts were free for the taking.   Dave couldn’t tolerate this behavior and took it upon himself to man the table.  It was fun to watch him send people away and take the time to re-sort the shirts into the proper size/gender piles.

Stan and Pam dragged us to another brewery for lunch.  Engrained Brewery featured a farm-to-table menu and a variety of beers on-tap.  Most of the beers we sampled were approachable true-to-style brews made to please everyone.  We decided to try a Springfield favorite: the horseshoe.  It’s a burger served on a piece of Texas toast, topped with fries, and covered with a cheese/herb sauce.  For us it was too much.

Our next stop on our jaunt was next door at the Scheel’s Sporting Goods Store.  It put our local Bass Pro Shop to shame.  There was a Ferris Wheel in the store along with an arcade, shooting gallery, and mammoth taxidermy display.

Eventually we made our way to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.  They had a small museum with a few displays of furnishings, household trinkets, and a model of town that traced Lincoln’s funeral procession route.   Tickets to tour the home are (surprisingly) free thanks to the provisions the Lincoln family put on the property as a gift to Illinois (now the National Park Service runs the property).  The park encompasses several homes from the period and keeps the street as true to the period as possible.  By day these homes are state government buildings.   Tours of the home are guided to 1) give you facts about the home and it’s decor, 2) to control the crowd flow, 3) make sure you don’t touch anything.  

Since we were on one of the later tours of the day we did not have time to visit the Illinois State Museum.  Maybe next time.  We did find time to grab a couple beers at Buzz Bomb Brewing   We sat in a comfy section of their upstairs taproom and worked in a few games of Uno while we enjoyed our beers.   For dinner we returned to Obed and Isaac’s to enjoy pizza, Mac and cheese, and bacon wrapped dates.  We had an after dinner drink at Celtic Mist - nice space and good beer selection on draft.

Sunday breakfast was at Charlie Parker’s Diner - made famous nationally by Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  The restaurant is in an semi-circle-shaped military building on the edge of town.   Inside the decor is diner-retro.  Here you can get a breakfast Horseshoe twice the size of our lunch Horseshoe or a mammoth pancake (one is all you need).  Pictures below are a snippet from Google Images.

Our final stop of the day was Lincoln's Tomb.  It's pretty big.   We rubbed the nose of the bust like everyone else does (for luck) before walking into the tomb.  As visitors make their way around the hall they can see several bronze statues depict moments in Lincoln's life and read plaques about significant milestones.

We really should plan another visit to Springfield to take in the museum.  Another brewery/distillery is expected to open soon (Anvil and Forge), providing 3 breweries in walking distance of downtown.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Fun in Portland Oregon

Our trip to Oregon/Washington for the Blooms to Brews Marathon was rather short. We flew in Friday night with enough time to catch dinner and a few drinks with Lee and Laura (they arrived hours earlier from San Diego).  We flanked the pre-race night with hotel stays at the boutique chain McMenamin’s.  We discovered this chain in 2012 when we spent a night in downtown Bend, OR at the St. Francis School.  McMenamin’s buys old buildings and repurpose them into hotels with breweries, soaking pools, concert halls, bars, wineries, and other fun things.  

Our Friday night was spent at The Kennedy School - an elementary school opened in 1915 that is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Every corner of the property is decorated with paintings, concert posters, or other hand-painted touches.  Our room was named for the book Ireland and featured artwork relevant to the story.  The Courtyard Restaurant had to have had over 100 unique light fixtures.   We dined in the school’s Boiler Room which is now the pool hall/game room for the hotel.  We had a hard time picking another bar to drink at:  Cypress featured turntable reggae and rum, Detention played jazz, and Honor played opera.   We chose to have a drink at Honor because the bartender was lonely.   He gave us some insights on activities for our next day (none of which we ended up doing). 

The next morning we mulled over our plans at breakfast.  The waterfalls were too far out of the way of our final destination of Woodland, WA.  It was overcast, so the view of Mt. St. Helen may be limited from its visitor center.  We decided to do some things in Portland but did not know anything about the Portland sites.  The ladies at the next table heard our conversation and ended up giving us two free passes to the Portland Japanese Garden.  Why not?

The gardens were built into a hill overlooking the city. The $15 adult price gained us access to walk the grounds, see special displays (bonsai tree competition), buy gifts / snacks, or listen to the stringed instrument presentation.   We spent our time following the trails and taking pictures.    The weather was cooperating by not raining and giving us some sun for a few minutes.   We spent about 90 minutes walking the grounds.

How did we follow-up the Japanese Garden?  By taking a trip to the Chinese Garden.  The Lan Su Garden was in an up-and-coming area of town. That’s being kind.  There were several nice businesses near the garden, but the area was generally sketchy.   Lan Su is a walled-in oasis in the middle of some run-down areas.   For $10 each we could tour the gardens and dine in the restaurant.  We arrived in time to take a 30 minute (included in price) guided tour of the garden.   Our guide explained how all the components balanced each other and the significance of certain structural elements.  The tour was worth it.   It was amazing how much they squeezed into 2 acres.

For lunch we headed to the Pearl District (hip, clean, higher end than our last location) for lunch at a brewery.  Thankfully two of our favorites were across the street from each other.  Ten Barrel had a 35 minute wait for a table, and Rogue had no wait.  Rogue for the win!  Food was great and there were a number of beers available on tap. 

Before heading out of town for Woodland, WA we stopped at the city’s second Voodoo Doughnuts location.  Our wait here was only ten minutes - much shorter than the line we saw downtown. The people at Voodoo may have been the ones who started the gourmet doughnut craze. We picked up a dozen to eat over the next two days.


After the marathon we headed back to Oregon for a fun afternoon at McMenamins Edgefield.  Located east of Portland Airport the large property was once the county poor farm.  Hotel rooms were created in the main dormitory and the infirmary.  Our room was large, but some of the furnishings were really old and worn, plus we were next to the common bathroom for those choosing rooms without baths.   We heard the clicking of the lock all night.

We spent the day bar hopping the property.  We ate lunch in the old Power House, had cocktails in the stables-turned-distillery, drank wine made on property in the cellar while listening to live music, and had dinner at the main bar.  We enjoyed exploring the gardens and would have considered a round of pitch and putt if it wasn’t raining.   Another unique aspect of the property was the in-house glass blowing studio.  If we wanted to see a movie the theatre was showing the new Avengers movie released that weekend.   Edgefield was the kind of place you’d check into for the weekend to just relax and explore all the property had to offer.   We liked it enough to consider a return trip back to do just that, or use it as a stop-over for a return trip to Bend.

While Portland isn't famous for sites we found there were plenty of things to see and the best source for options came from talking to the locals.  Servers, housekeepers, bartenders were all very helpful and wanted to be sure we saw some of the best their city had to offer.