Hiking Falls Creek Falls

Just a few miles east of the Portland area there is a waterfall that could be the most spectacular in the entire Columbia River Gorge area. No, I'm not talking about that over-touristed Multnomah Falls, but something much, much better.

Falls Creek Falls is in Washington, just a little northeast of Stevenson. To get there from Portland take Interstate 84 east to Cascade Locks and take the Bridge of the Gods ($1 toll each way) over the Columbia River to SR-14 in Washington. Head east, towards Stevenson. Drive through the small town and a few miles past that you will see signs for Carson. Take a left onto Falls Creek Highway and Carson. Drive through the town and head north to about milepost 19 where there will be sign to the right for Falls Creek Falls. Take the gravel road (watch for pot holes!) about a mile or so into the forest to a small parking lot. There is room there for 6-8 cars comfortably, though this day we went there were 15 that had found spots. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for this area, either an annual or day pass, and you cannot buy them here - you must bring it with you. There are also no restrooms or any other kind of facilities - you have what you bring, and please take it all out with you.

The hike begins with Falls Creek to your right on a relatively moderate slope through deep woods. After not too long you cross over the creek on a bridge and the rest of the hike has the creek on your right as the trail winds up and up. And up. And up. The trail is plenty wide so people can pass single-file going opposite directions.

Along the way you get nice views like this:

Falls Creek

Now, I would suggest being careful when you take in the views. My ankle says it's best to stop moving before you look around, since there are plenty of rocks and roots jutting from the dirt trail. If you fail to not look at the ground you are crossing, the risk is real of tripping, spraining an ankle, and falling on your face.

Not that I would know or anything. Maybe. I mean, the purple pool at the bottom of my right foot is just about gone, so it may as well have never happened. Right?

I have to say, we've done this hike twice before and I had forgotten how hard it is. It's really a lot of uphill - even the dog was tired. It's 1.7 miles from the parking area to the waterfall, and most of that is uphill over this semi-rough terrain. We have a book about hiking in the Portland area (60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, I think it is) and the description for Falls Creek Falls is "easy" - umm...duly noted. Anything in there marked "difficult" I'm pretty sure we aren't quite ready for. Yikes.

Of course, hiking on a sprained ankle doesn't make it much easier, but thankfully it didn't swell all that much. Just hurt like hell.

There is a point not too far from the end where the trail crosses over another feeder stream of the creek. Lush mosses cover the rocks in the water, both uphill and down, and it's really one of those spots where you think hey, I could hang out here for awhile. In fact, on the way down we passed a group of people so taken with it they asked us if the waterfall at the end was worth going on. 

Up the stream.

Oh yes, yes it is. If you turn around here and then see pictures of what you missed you will kick yourself because you will have to go back. And starting over means doing the whole damn hill over again, and no one wants to do that.

As we worked our way towards the top of the trail, our stops became more frequent. Even Misaki asked to stop and catch her breath a couple times. We had to cross a thin stream without the benefit of a bridge and she was not having that - I had to pick her up and set her down close to across, all the while trying not to fall down the hill on my bad ankle myself.

Yes, she is spoiled - why do you ask?

Small dogs may not like this.

The closer one gets to the end of the trail the louder it gets. The crashing of the waterfall is enough to take a tired body the last few feet and when you crest the trail and see the waterfall, every drop of sweat is worth it (click on the picture for a bigger version).

Falls Creek Falls

The trail leaves you about even with the top of the final piece of the falls, but there are actually multiple tiers. This picture doesn't do it justice - a top to bottom panorama might have been better (maybe next time) - there is another piece to the waterfall even higher up. I couldn't guess as to the height of the falls from top to bottom, but in my mind it's much more impressive than the much more famous Multnomah, but since it's not nearly as easy to get to it will never be as popular. Which is fine with us.

We took a lunch and nibbled as we watched the water crashing down the rocks. Despite the roar the sound was pretty relaxing, and despite the sweat and sprained ankle I'd do this trail again in a heartbeat. Well, after the ankle heals of course.

The walk back is much faster as downhills usually are, but because of how steep the trail is and all the rocks and roots, calling it much easier would be misleading.

Misaki Approved!

This is a great trail for dogs. We saw plenty on the hike, both on and off leash (Misaki is a bigger fan of the ones on leash). Definitely pack in water and treats for them at the falls, because it's a tough run. It's a little tougher for smaller dogs because of having to cross that stream - later in the season it won't be an issue, because it will be dry - and Misaki did have to jump over a couple fallen trees on the trail. On the way up she wasn't quite sure about how to approach them and needed some coaxing, but on the way down she just hopped over them like it was nothing. As we struggled a tad more to get over them, she'd look back at us like, "What the hell is taking you guys so long?!"

Of course, when we got home, who was the one who collapsed on the floor, only to get up for dinner before collapsing again? Well, besides me, it was the dog.

I think she's looking forward to the next adventure.



There are different schools of thought about when to get back on the horse after losing a pet. Some say do it immediately. Some say you should never get a new one because the pain is too great when you lose them. Some say you should wait until you get a sign from the heavens. All are dumb because they ignore the fact people hold their pets in different regards and process through grief at different rates. None of that is good or bad - it just is.

After we lost Ruby we weren't sure which category we would fall into. Apparently the former with a dash of a sign from the heavens (or, in our case, the internets). We knew we wanted another dog and we also knew we wanted a Shiba this time. Shibas are Japanese, like Akitas, and really look like mini Akitas. Same tail, similar colorings, same build - just a quarter of the size or so.

Well, the internets offered up this little bundle of joy, recently made available after a short career in the show ring. We had been following this relatively local breeder for awhile and Misaki's attributes were just about exactly what we wanted. She's friendly with people, tolerant of dogs (but still not the kind to want to hang out - common in Shibas like in Akitas), smart, pretty, and - we hoped - tolerant of the cats. We thought about a puppy, but decided we would rather have an adult. Misaki is six and Shibas should live to be around 14-15 years old.

At a pit stop on the way home.

At home, meeting her new toys.

Just for comparison's sake, here is a picture of Ruby and a picture of Misaki. The purple plant in the background is the same lilac.

Ruby, the Akita, at 86 pounds.

Misaki, the Shiba, at 26 pounds.

It's not a perfect comparison, but it should show Misaki is significantly smaller.

Also, and I don't know how I almost forgot this, Misaki is actually Japanese - she was born to a breeder near Mt. Aso in southern Japan on the island of Kyushu. As a puppy she came back to the U.S. with Sanshou - you can see her puppy pic on the link above. Her name means beautiful blossom in Japanese.

We've now had her for over a week and everyone seems to have adjusted nicely. The cats weren't that thrilled at first - Moochie in particular would growl and hiss at Misaki, which surprised me a bit, but he's the most sensitive of the three and really missed Ruby - but after about five days things calmed down. Now all three cats - Lilo loves that curly tail - aren't bothered by her at all.

Nap time in the sun room. Moochie is on the chair and Lilo looking out the window. Sera is on the couch to the right of this scene.

For the most part Misaki will come when she's called (she's a Shiba still, after all, so she isn't going to listen all the time no matter how long you spend training her), walks very well on a lead (though she must absolutely at all times be on the left side of the sidewalk/trail/anything else, which is amusing), travels well in the car in a crate, and will actually wait for you to go through a doorway first if you tell her to wait. Wow! Ruby did sit and down very well, but she sure didn't do that one no matter how much we tried to teach her.

Misaki loves herself a road trip.

One of the cutest things this puppy does is on walks she will not walk over any grates or anything else in the sidewalk. The funny part about this is she comes from central Oregon, in an area where there are no sidewalks. Grates I can see because they feel weird on her paws, but the access hatches for Verizon? She won't walk on them. Wifey is the same way - pure cuteness!

Another supercute thing she does is stomping. This is mostly in the morning when she's so excited to get out of her crate and go for a walk. She'll stand up and stomp her front paws in anticipation of getting out with a giant grin on her face. Maybe at some point I'll get this on video and post it...it's hilarious.

Speaking of pure cuteness...

Misaki also enjoys a good game of fetch. Now, there are probably many of you dog owners out there who don't think that's a big deal, but for a Shiba it is very, very rare. Akitas as well. Both breeds aren't the type to go for repetitive playing like that because they don't see the point (for an interesting explanation of this, rent the movie Hachi with Richard Gere, about an Akita). The fact Misaki not only will do it but likes doing it makes her pretty rare.

Bringing it back dutifully.

Trapping it like a soccer pro.

Here's a few more pictures of the new pup:

I think that's excitement...could be a yawn.

Surveying her new domain.

Nap time - breaking in a new family is hard.

Rest assured this won't be the last you see of the cute little Misaki. We plan on taking her on hikes all over this summer, so there should be plenty of pictures to go around.

Welcome to the family Misaki!

Nibbling Notes

Over the past few weeks Wifey and I have been to a few places for little tastes and while most of them have been good stuff, they haven't all been spectacular. Most of these places I just don't feel I've had enough to justify a complete review (though yes, that hasn't stopped me before), or they only do a couple things. Of course I pledged at some point to do more, shorter posts, so perhaps this should actually be 20 separate posts. Hmmm. Oh well. Here's the quick roundup.

Fats - This place on N. Killingsworth has the feel of an English pub (at least, what I imgaine an English pub is like, having never been to England) and specializes in that kind of fare. We hit up Fats for a weekend brunch, getting there around 11. There was only one other couple there when we arrived and only a couple other diners came in, so needless to say there was no trouble getting a table.Given the English menu, we ordered English food we had never tasted, just seen on T.V. We started off with a Scotch egg, which is a boiled egg wrapped in ground sausage and fried. Awesome. The egg was cooked just right and it had great flavor. I'd been wanting to try one of these for awhile and was not disappointed. For the main course I ordered bangers and mash (apparently on the dinner menu), which is really crushed potatoes (mash) to go with a few decent size sausages (apparently, bangers) and carmelized onions. Everything was yummy - the Guinness sauce poured over it all was very good. Wifey ordered the poutine. It was pretty good, but the cheese was chevre and really couldn't stand on it's own amongst the flavors of the potatoes, bacon, egg, and the thin gravy. A good cheddar probably would have been better. Service was solid. All in all we had a very good brunch, and we would absolutely go back.

Dove Vivi - This pizza place had been on the list for awhile and we almost went here a few weeks ago, but chose Lovely Fifty-Fifty instead. You can order whole pizzas here, but they have plenty of offerings of single slices to choose from. This is a deep dish, cornmeal crust pizza, so definitely not the Neopolitan style I typically prefer. The crust was good, crunchy, and not overly greasy like some deep dish pies. We ordered three slices to go. The first was the Corn, which I would never have ordered on my own but online reviews raved about. Guess what? It was very, very good. The flavors worked nicely. We also ordered a sausage (fennel sausage, carmelized onions, marinated green peppers) - this was probably my favorite. Everything complemented everything else. Our last slice was a special of the day, a ham, mozzarella, ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh tomatoes - again, excellent flavor complementing going on here. The food was good and it only cost us about $11 for a full meal for two. I still don't think I like it as much as someplace like Nostrana, Ken's Artisan, or Apizza Scholls, but I'd go back.

PBJ's Grilled - I first heard about this place on Eater PDX  (great site, by the way) and being someone who grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, I had to check this new cart out. The owners, a married couple whose names escape me because I am horrible with names (sorry!), are both very friendly, plus they have a beautiful husky who hangs out at the cart with them. The day I went the entire area was completely dead because of the construction on 23rd Ave, but they are optimistic traffic will step up when the cars come back (actually, all of 23rd was a ghost town, which I had never seen before). I chose the Good Morning and the Cynthia to try out their flavors (and the grilling, which was a new concept to me for PBJ). The Good Morning had excellent flavors with bacon, maple syrup, their homemade peanut butter, and blueberry jam on French toast, but the bacon may have gotten a little lost in there, if it's possible for bacon to get lost. The Cynthia, with peanut butter, Nutella, and raspberry jam on challah bread, was simply heavenly. I love all of those flavors anyway, but put them all together on a hot sandwich and that's pure goodness. Absolutely will go back to try some of the other combos (if I can resist simply ordering Cynthia again, which, for some reason, sounds a little dirty). They sit on the sidwalk just outside of the Two Tarts Bakery, so if you hit up one I recommend going to the other as well.

Sterling Coffee - This is a second venture from the people behind Coffeehouse Northwest, one of our favorite places in Portland, so we had to check it out. It's hard to find - if you know where Trader Joe's is on NW Glisan, just west of 23rd, it's to the east side of the grocery story in a tiny little cubbyhole. It's just as good as Coffeehouse, which shouldn't be a surprise, but they put more emphasis on tiny batches of bean roasting, and have two different sources of beans they use each day, one for their milk-based drinks and one for the straight espresso drinks. Their caramel comes from Two Tarts and the dark chocolate is from Michel Cluizel. Highly recommended.

Barista II - Wifey and I were in the neighborhood, on NE Alberta, checking out some pet stores and I had to see the new digs for the second Barista. The Pearl location is small, but this one is cavernous. Tons of windows for natural light, plenty of seating, a large work area for the baristas, and a lot of empty space (actually, a surprising amount). I think that was by design. Like with the Pearl location the drinks are excellent, but this time owner (and champion barista) Billy Wilson himself was in there making drinks, so I got a mocha made by a Portland coffee legend. Honestly? It may have been the best mocha I've ever had in the city, but that may be all in my head. I don't know what all is involved in being a champion barista, but even if Billy doesn't always do the daily work anymore he still has it. And he seems like a nice guy; another customer dropped a glass sugar container on the concrete floor, shattering it, and he just laughed about it, making jokes about seeing some guy who ran out the door do it. As an owner I'd find it a little hard myself to do that, but he took it in stride. Experience, I suppose. Oh, and they serve Nuvrei baked goods, so you know they are awesome. Wilson is in the process of getting a liquor license here, the idea being beer will be served in the evenings on tap.

Half and Half - This little shop in downtown was a place that had been on the list for awhile for coffee and pie, but we just hadn't made it there. Well, we found out it was closing a couple weeks back, so we decided to go. People raved about their deviled eggs, so we got one of those, a slice of buttermilk pie, a mocha, an Oreo-like cookie, and a William Tell sandwich (sliced apples, turkey, onions). The eggs were fine, nothing special. The pie was interesting, something I had never had before. I was intrigued enough to find a recipe to save for someday, but it wasn't the best thing I have ever eaten or anything like that. Mocha was solid, but not spectacular, and the sandwich was just pretty good. The cookie was okay, but the one at Heart (see lower) is better. Overall I'd give the place a decent 3.5 stars out of five, but it's not a place I'm going to lose any sleep over not going to sooner or miss because it's gone.

Wong's King - There are a ton of Chinese food places in Portland, but most of them simply pander to the American styled Chinese foods people think of as real Chinese food. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it's just not real Chinese. Wong's had one Portland location (plus restaurants in Estacada and Sandy) up until a month ago, out on 82nd, and while we had heard very good things online, it's quite the trek for those of us on the west side (yeah, I know, not like we don't go everywhere anyway...). But, they opened up a new location in Beaverton, on Beaverton-Hillsdale where the China Moon buffet had been. Thankfully they totally remodeled the interior, making it much more upscale looking. The menu is quite long and you can find dishes with American styled flavors a well as a whole bunch of things people who are connoisseurs of Chinese food should be overjoyed to find. Us, we aren't Chinese food adventurous yet, though a few more visits to Wong's may change that. We've gone twice now. The first just the two of use, and we ordered orange chicken, Chinese onion pancakes, crab and cream cheese wontons, and steamed pork and shrimp dumplings (shumai) topped with fish eggs (I should bring a notepad to keep track of this stuff). The second time was with a family group of 10 (which they first misplaced our reservation and then sat us all at a table better designed for eight, but we managed) and we ordered the family style meal for 10 A (there were three different ones I think - I really wish the menu was online). That included all sorts of things, including an appetizer plate that included duck, chicken, a vegetarian mushroom wrap, and jellyfish (!), crab maw and fish soup, an entire crispy chicken, a fantastic spicy garlicky prawn dish, clams in the shell, honey and walnut shrimp (my favorite, even though I don't typically like walnuts), pork and shrimp fried rice, a bamboo, mushroom and vegetable dish, and an entire dover sole (very pretty presentation), and some other goodness. Both times the meals were very good, and I'm excited to go back and do a little more exploring on the menu. It's not that cheap of a place, but the food is excellent and the service is great, if a little overbearing during non-busy times. Oh, and yes, I did eat jellyfish - my way of getting back at all those ones who stung us while we were in Mexico a couple years ago. It tastes the way you would expect jellyfish to taste - a little gummy like with little natural flavor. Probably won't be high on my list again, but I'll eat it.

Kenny & Zuke's - This place isn't new to the blog, we go here a lot to the deli part of it. The only reason I'm calling it out special now is the other day I had lunch there with a co-worker and ordered the turkey, pastrami, and...tongue!...sandwich. I have never before eaten tongue. Flavor-wise it tasted like beef. It was very tender (the pieces were chopped in similar size to the pastrami), very meaty. However, it was also difficult to take a bite out of the sandwich and tear the tongue chunks, so I ended up getting a big piece of tongue when I took a bite. Not a good or a bad thing, just a different thing. It was pretty good and I'd eat it again if the mood struck me. Oh, and get the cheesecake from the deli - it's the greatest thing ever. On second though, don't - more for Wifey and I!

Heart - I actually found this place on Twitter. They did a good job of raising awareness of their opening and what they were going to do, and built up a buzz around other coffee-ophiles in Portland. (Is that a word? It is now.) The space on East Burnside (right next to a great pet store called Meat and a block away from the awesome Screen Door), is clean and open, with the entire sitting area situated around Heart's roaster. The drinks are good and while I'd like the mocha to have a little more chocolate the subtlety is growing on me. However, their Guatemala Finca Villaure beans they roast (the light blue sticker - if you go you will see what I mean) are fantastic. Wifey and I go in there just about every week for a new bag of beans for making daily at home. I think we've tried at least three others of their regular stock, but this is our favorite. I ordered a siphon coffee once, which comes from this crazy machine and has almost no bitterness, with the Ethiopian beans and it was pretty amazing how clearly all the tasting notes showed through. If siphon is new, try it out - it's something fun to try at least once. Heart also has plenty of yummy treats at the counter - Wifey and I recommend the large Oreo-looking cookies, which are excellent. They also have a similar styled one that is peanut butter we need to try.

A Slice of New York - This place is dangerous. We had been to the location on Barbur a couple times and enjoyed it (called New York New York), but not in a couple years. Then a few weeks back they opened up a location inside the Lamb's Thriftway in Garden Home, where I stop for milk every so often on the way home from work. The first time I was in I think a new employee had just burned something, because that burnt crust smell was all over and the owner didn't seem very happy. The next time Wifey and I were there and hungry. No burnt smell. So we ordered a sausage, pepperoni, and onion (I think it was called Rye Beach), and it was a very good New York styled pizza, just like we remembered. Surprisingly there wasn't too much grease. The crust had a good crunch and it ended up being a solid five servings. The pizzas are a tad spendy - it was $24 for a 18-inch, which is a small for them - but it's good stuff. Again, it's not Neapolitan, but good in it's own way and a style we like very so often.

Sheridan's Frozen Custard - Sheridan's is a frozen custard chain based in the Midwest, and their location in Eastern Vancouver, WA is the closest to us by far (next closest is Henderson, NV). Frozen custard, if you haven't tasted it, is amazing. It's creamier than ice cream, smoother, and absolutely better than frozen yogurt (and yes, probably a little more fat and calories, but whatever). Old School on Seattle's Capitol Hill is very good, and Tart on SE Division in Portland (two doors down from Taste Unique) is okay. This place, though, even though it's a chain, is pretty damn good. We drove out here on a whim one Saturday and it took much longer than we thought it would, but it turned out to be well worth it. Despite the fact we were just going to get a little in a dish, the specials with the pretty pictures caught our eye and we ended up each getting a concrete (kind of like a Dairy Queen Blizzard) in the regular size, which is actually a medium and, as it turns out, more than enough. Wifey ordered the Lemon Bar while I ordered a Espresso Toffee one - and both were really, really good. So good, in fact, that it's good this place is 30+ miles away from home. Awesome. Definitely recommend.

Hunh...apparently we eat out a lot. You would think we didn't cook....but we do. Fresh asparagus last weekend at the Beaverton Farmer's Market! And strawberries! Both were good...should have bought more.

In Sisters, OR

We drove through Sisters, Oregon a couple times in the past month, so here are a couple tips. Why were driving through will be made clear in the next blog posting... (Ooh, foreshadowing!)

Sno Cap Ice Cream - I'm not sure I've had milkshakes this good before. The first time through I ordered an orange creme shake and Wifey ordered vanilla and chocolate swirl soft serve. They make all the ice cream themselves, and this was spectactular. The second time through I ordered a peanut butter shake and Wifey went with pineapple; again, excellent. Like with Sheridan's it's a good thing this isn't in the neighborhood, but three hours away isn't overly bad. Right? I mean, driving there for a shake isn't weird, is it? They also do burgers and other basic diner foods, which I hear are decent, but the ice cream is the star.

Sisters Coffee Company - Just a couple blocks away is a very good coffee place. They roast their own beans and boast quite a good sized menu of drinks as well as a vast array of beans from various places around the world to go with their own blends named for parts of the high desert. The first day we drove through it was a Thursday, so mid-day the place was pretty dead. I ordered a large mocha, which comes with three shots of espresso, but was offered a free fourth shot because they make them two at a time and they had no other customers to use the extra one with. Why yes, yes I will, thank you. The second time it was a Saturday and it was pretty busy, so no extra shot. Interestingly enough, I thought the fourth shot made it smoother, so maybe next time I go in I just pay for a fourth shot.

In Seattle

A few weeks ago Wifey and I went to Seattle for the day. We had bought tickets to a food tour via Groupon, which is a cool site where users can buy what amounts to gift certificates at reduced prices. Very cool - we've used it a few times already and been pleased. We also had a few other places we wanted to check out in West Seattle, so we left home early and spent the entire day.

Seattle Food Tours, Belltown - Our tour was in Belltown and started at Lola, a Tom Douglas restaurant. There we had fresh pitas with various dips, which were good, and yes, I'd absolutely eat there. We had very good pizza at Via Tribunali (excited one is coming to Portland), good sushi at Shiro's, a teasingly small bit at Branzino's, an only average brownie at the Macrina Bakery, a sparkly chardonnay (which I'm not much of a fan of) at The Local Vine, and some very yummy tapas at Txori, which has since moved out of Belltown and isn't on the tour anymore. It was an interesting taste of the different places and our guide was, well, interesting, but if we do say so ourselves you get much more bang for your buck from the Savor Seattle Food Tours. Yes, they cost a tad more, but I think you get more food and one of the great things about Savor Seattle's tours is at each place a representative of the restaurant will come and talk to the group about their food and answer questions. On this one - like the one we did in Portland - you don't really get that. It makes for a better tour and a better experience.

Marination Mobile - This truck in Seattle has drawn many comparison's to Portland's own Koi Fusion - which is one of my favorites - and it just happened to be in West Seattle the Saturday we were there, so we added it to the list of stops. Well, being named the best cart in America by GMA is a plus for them as well, even if it did inexplicably beat out Portland's Garden State. This was our lunch that day - or, well, part of it - and we ordered the kalua pork sliders, and a taco each of kalbi shortribs and spicy pork. All of them were excellent, but I think the spicy pork was our favorite. The nunya sauce is damn good. Is it better than Koi? I have to say...maybe. I need to do a side by side, but that's not exactly easy (maybe if there is a Seattle-Portland cart meetup again we will have to go). Koi has better tortillas for their tacos, I do know that, but the insides I really need a closer comparison than months apart. We loved it though, and would definitely eat this again.

Sugar Rush Baking/Coffee to a Tea - By now you may have learned we have a cupcake fetish, so any time a new place opens in Portland or Seattle it gets added to the list. Sugar Rush, plain and simple, is right there at the top with the best. Their frosting is a perfect mix of creamy and sweet without overdoing either one, and the cupcakes are moist (not the moistest, but pretty close). We bought a Big Smooch, which is lemon cake, with lemon buttercream frosting and filled with raspberry - it was awesome. I love raspberry, but it wasn't even necessary in this the lemon was so good. We also ordered a Mocha (chocolate cake and espresso buttercream), which was excellent. The mocha I ordered here was also very well done, better than I was actually expecting. This place jumped right to the top of the best cupcakes in Seattle in our mind.

Yellowleaf Cupcakes - And this place to the bottom. Sad. We hit this downtown Seattle spot after our tour and it happened to be not long before closing, so everything they had left for the day was 40% off. Score! The cake part of these cupcakes was perhaps the best we have tasted in both cities. So why is it on the bottom of the list? Frankly, the frostings were horrible. They had very little flavor or sweetness. I'm guessing this is on purpose, but for us, the frosting is part of the equation of flavor, not just a pretty topping. This was very bland, almost nauseating. Again, the cake was excellent; the frosting not so much. Sad.

Bakery Nouveau - If I could only eat one place the rest of my life it would absolutely be a bakery. And given how much I love French baked goods it would be a French bakery. And since this is the greatest French bakery I have ever been too (never been to France...yet) I could simply live in the dining area at Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle. I'd never have to leave. They make sandwiches on their baguettes (which, admittedly, we didn't get but looked amazing) as well as so many pastries it's heaven. We ordered a twice baked chocolate croissant, which came warm with plenty of chocolate filling (sometimes you just get a small chunk of hard stuff in the middle, even at supposedly good places) and the entire thing literally melted in your mouth in an array of goodness that can only be described as...well, I'll leave that to your imagination. Mmm... We also brought home a slice of chocolate cake which has 64% chocolate mousse in it. Was it good? Oh. My. Lord. Yes. Not surprisingly this place is pretty popular, so be prepared to wait in line a few minutes, but it moves pretty fast. On this Saturday morning they had at least three people helping customers, so we were there no more than 10 minutes, even with some people having to be shaken awake from shock when asked what they wanted. No, that wasn't me. Honestly. I would drive to Seattle just to go to this place, then get in my car and drive home, and not feel like I wasted any time at all - it's that worth it.

Eats Market - We stopped here expressly for one item - an ice cream sandwich. Going in I thought maybe I'd get a sandwich, but after eating at Marination and Nouveau, I just wasn't as hungry. We wanted the chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream, but apparently the only cookie they had available was the chocolate brownie cookie, so we ordered that with vanilla ice cream and chocolate dipping sauce. We actually thought about getting two, but good thing we didn't - it was pretty dang big, and filling. It was good, but chocolate cookies aren't a favorite - chocolate chip cookie would have been better. The ice cream, which they make themselves, was fine, but nothing I need to go out of my way for. I'd eat here again, maybe, but I don't need to go out of my way.

Caffe Vita (Olympia) - As we left Seattle I needed coffee for the drive home, so I wanted to go to the one on Capitol Hill that I had such a great drink at before. However, it was late in the day and Capitol Hill was crazy busy so there were no parking spots. No worries, we decided, we'll stop at the one in Olympia on the way home, about an hour (or less, maybe) from downtown Seattle. As we drove through downtown Olympia we passed Batdorf and Bronson, the company that roasts very good beans (Guatemala and Dancing Goats) we buy at our local Whole Foods. Unfourtunately they were closed, but we'll have to make a point of going there sometime. Downtown Olympia is...interesting. It reminds me a bit of Salem or Eugene, a little older, smaller, but still with a surprising number of homeless-looking people and riff-raff. My drink from here was fine, but sadly not as good as the Capitol Hill location. Oh well.


Throwback: Acceleration

This is the second of my older pieces of fiction. Again, the only changes I made to this 10-year-old piece were grammatical (and the title, which blew), though I wanted to make more. Please, leave your comments and critiques, and in a few days I'll add my own thoughts about where this story came from and what worked and didn't work. Enjoy!


I still don’t know how I got here. Actually, that is not entirely true; I know, but I can barely believe it. I look around me and this world is so foreign, so different from my life past. My entire existence has been reduced to this eight-foot by eight-foot cube of concrete, no window, and a door made of steel bars. Looking on the walls, I see not the pictures familiar to me, the poster of the tiger I someday wanted to own, the dedication of Mark McGwire’s 70 home runs, and the remembrances of my favorite movies, but rather crude, vulgar etchings of naked women made with the simplest of tools, and a tally of the consecutive days some guy named Butch masturbated into the sink.

Only the barest semblance of living space now exist in my world. The place where I sleep (I hesitate to call it a bed) has no springs and no shape, it feels like I am lying on the concrete itself. My toilet consists of a hole in the ground, and I do not always have toilet paper. The sink is covered in rust and encrusted with some sort of substance (I have been very hesitant to investigate). I have become used to the acrid smells that arise from both of these fixtures, but I long for the sweet smell of air on a spring day, the fresh smell that comes from an April rain shower.

The food here is edible, some of the time. I found myself refusing to eat the first few days, but eventually had to give in when I realized it was not going to get any better. Oftentimes I still cannot stomach a meal, and either I go without or come back to my cell and empty my stomach of the vile gruel.

When I try to think how I got here, I still have to struggle to realize that it actually happened, and not only that, but it happened to me. I have always been pretty laid back and accepting of life, never the guy who went out looking for a confrontation. My major in college was diplomacy for crying out loud! That is what makes this all the more difficult to accept. It was as if the person involved was not me but involved a whole other human being.

That day had begun pretty normally. I got up, had a light breakfast, kissed my wife goodbye, and drove to work in Beaverton. I had only been out of college for two years, but I seemed to be doing well for myself, working at this new business which had a need for people with proficiency in languages. They paid well, and I enjoyed the work, even though sometimes it was as tiresome as simple translation of documents.

Work went well that day. I finished the project I had been working on for the past few weeks and was able to knock off early. Unfortunately for me, that meant going home during the beginnings of rush hour. I usually worked from ten in the morning to six in the evening and was able to miss the rush hours, but I did not want to wait. I went out to the parking lot and got into my car.

I was so proud of that car, and I guess I still am, though there is nothing left of which to be proud. I had saved my money for the first six months of work so when I bought the car I would not have very high monthly payments. It was an Acura Integra GS-R, the sports version of the Integra. I had wanted one for years, and I babied her like my own child. She was a dark blue, the color of midnight in the desert, the deepest of sapphire hues. I had wanted all the options, and I had the windows tinted, bought the spoiler, and opted for the low profile tires and rims. When I was in that car, I was in a different world. The leather interior was so soft and plush, different from the 15-year-old Honda Accord I had driven for years. The transmission shifted so smoothly, and the engine let out a low, healthy roar, similar to the deep purring sound a person may hear from a happy feline.

I got in the car, turned on the engine, and headed out towards Interstate 5. I have always had a habit of driving a few miles over the speed limit, so I proceeded over to the left lane and pushed the car up to seventy miles an hour. The sun burned brightly on that fall day, and I put on my Oakleys, lowered the windows, and turned up the radio to my favorite radio station.

The guy on the late afternoon show I had not had the opportunity to listen to much, since this was a different time of day than usual for me to be on the road. Apparently he had just come on, and was going on and on about some crazy driver that had been moving through traffic like a maniac on his way to work. I grinned and nodded to myself, thinking, “Yeah, seen that guy a few times myself.” He wouldn’t let up though, and went on to describe the guy’s truck, a four by four Toyota, and telling all the listeners that guy needed to be stopped.

Again I laughed to myself, thinking how nice that would be, if there were a delete key on my dashboard, just move the maniacs out of my way.

After finishing his soliloquy, the DJ put on a song and dedicated to the guy who had cut him off, an angry song about road rage by the hard rock group The Offspring, “Bad Habit.” I smiled. For some reason I loved that song.

Hey man you know, I’m really okay

Dexter Holland sang out of my speakers.

After about five or six miles, I took the exit for Interstate 205 and headed towards home in Oregon City.

The gun in my hand will tell you the same

I saw the car in my rearview about thirty carlengths back, a big, bright red Toyota Tacoma four by four, weaving in and out of traffic like a hot coal, and other cars were avoiding it and moving out of its way.

But when I’m in my car, don’t give me no crap, ‘cause the slightest thing and I just might snap!

The chorus started to roar through my little car.

The Toyota must have been going at least 80 and changing lanes on the two-lane freeway almost at will cutting cars off and disrupting traffic. I really hate people like that with a passion.

The smart thing to do would have been to just pull over to the right lane and scream obscenities at the top of my lungs like I usually do at people who are idiots and drive like an underage teenager with a stolen car. For some reason, the intelligent part of my brain decided to click off at that moment and the macho side took over.

If you flip me off, I’ll get in your face!
You drive on my ass, your foot’s on the gas, and the next breath is your last, ‘cause I got a bad habit!

Screaming guitars filled my head, all I could see was the red, both of the car behind me and the fire running through my veins.

I refused to change lanes. The Toyota screamed up behind me tailgating me not five feet off my bumper. He flashed his highbeams at me, and in my rearview mirror I could see him gesturing at me and probably yelling obscenities.

We reached a part of the highway where there was no one in the right lane, and it became apparent to the Toyota that I was not going to move. He yanked his steering wheel to the right to go around me. I should have let him go, but I jerked my wheel as well, cutting him off. I was not going to let a creep like that get around me! Just as quickly, he pulled back to the left and was beside me before I knew it.

It should have been over then. He would have continued on his path, menacing the other drivers on the road until he got to his unknown destination. I would have gone home, eventually calming down. I would tell my wife about the nerve of some people and relax with a cold bottle of MacTarnahan’s.

But he was not going to get off that easy. Not today, and not on my drive home. It was personal now. I slammed the gas pedal to the floor. My Integra had no trouble keeping up with the Tacoma, and I was quickly alongside the truck, screaming out my window.

“You crazy fuck! You are nothing but a goddamn menace to society the way you fuckin’ drive, you psycho sonofabitch!”

My only response was the man’s middle finger.

I looked back at the road in time to see that I was coming up quickly on a minivan, and I jerked the wheel in behind the Tacoma, less than a foot from the metallic bumper about eye level with my car. I backed off a bit, and started giving him a continuous blink of my highbeams. The second we passed the minivan, and the Chrysler in front of it, I jerked back into the right lane and pulled alongside of the Tacoma. Now it was his turn:

“Leave me the fuck alone! You and your little piece of shit car can got to hell, for all the fuck that I care!”

It was very personal now, as if it had not been before. He had insulted my baby. I glanced at the speedometer, and with some measure of shock saw that my car was going 95 miles an hour. The full impact of that did not really register, for the testosterone had reached dangerous levels. I looked at the road ahead again, and I noticed alarmingly that I was screaming up on a new Mercedes. I had no choice, so I yanked into the right hand emergency lane and passed the Mercedes in an instant.

Drivers are rude, such attitude…

The speed was over one hundred by now, and we were both passing in the emergency lanes, he in an effort to leave me behind, me determined there was no way this psycho was going to get away. I did not know what I was going to do. If he pulled over, was I going to get out of my car and kick his ass? I probably would not do that. If we were caught by the police, anything I said would not matter, and I would lose my license for excessive speeding and reckless endangerment, at the least. I do not know why I kept up this useless exercise, but I did.

When I show my piece, complaints cease, something’s odd, feel like I’m God…

We reached another break in traffic, and I pulled along even with the Tacoma again. This time when I looked up into the window of the larger vehicle, I saw the muzzle of a large weapon, probably a shotgun. Time stopped.

Is it not a little strange how time can seem to have slowed, sometimes ceased to exist at all? Like when you drop a glass of Kool-Aid. The glass seems to hang in midair, the liquid floating, and almost every colored droplet is visible to the human eye as it moves towards the carpet. That is how I felt when I saw the shotgun. The scenery ceased to fly by. In fact, it ceased to exist at all. My thinking became clearer, I could actually see what would happen if I waited for him to pull that trigger. My only clear thought that was separate from what I was going to do was this:

“Shit like this doesn’t happen here! Not in Oregon, not where I live! It’s crazy, just plain fuckin’ psycho! Shit like that doesn’t happen here! No, not here! Only in places where people have no regard for human life, places like southern California! Shit like this only happens in L.A.!”

So, I did the only rational thing I could. I stepped on the gas, yanked the wheel to the left, slamming into the front of the Toyota. I heard the roar of the shotgun. The blast from the gun tore through the car about a foot behind my head and shattered the passenger side window. I know shards of glass dug into my skin, but I could not feel it. The impact of my car into the Toyota sent both cars into a deadly spin. The truck whipped into the grass median, spinning and slamming into the rear of my car. The pure force involved kicked my little Integra into the air. Before the airbags came out, I could see the world spinning away from me. I saw the tops of trees in the distance, then I saw the sky with a few fluffy clouds, and then I saw the ground. It seemed to be flying towards me, at a speed I could not consciously fathom. I saw the ground touch the front of my Integra, and my world spiraled into blackness.

I woke up three days later, in the intensive care unit at Willamette Falls Hospital. My wife was there holding my hand. I tried to move my head, but a voice from somewhere warned me not to because my back was broken, along with about half the bones in body. My vision was blurry, like I was seeing everything through a glass of water. I saw my mother, my father, my sister, and a couple of friends from school. Then I saw something that did not click. A police officer was standing in the doorway. What the hell was he doing there? I heard another voice, I think it was my wife’s:

“Honey, can you hear me?” I nodded, almost imperceptibly. “You have a lot of broken bones, but no nerve damage. The doctor says you will walk again, in time. Oh honey, I have been so worried about you. When you didn’t wake up, I thought you were gone, and I never would have been able to say goodbye! Dammit, not yet, I don’t want to say goodbye! I love you so much sweetheart!” Her words trailed into tears and sobbing.

I tried to ask a question, but trying to move my mouth proved difficult. All I managed was, “Puhleeeess?” At that, my mother broke into a fresh batch of tears. I wanted to know why the officer was here. He came over to my bed.

“I know this is not the best time, but I am Officer Wilhelm. I have to tell you that you are being charged with vehicular manslaughter and you will be brought to trial as soon as the doctor says it is okay. The man in the Toyota, Jeffrey Leinham, died in the accident.”

I could not respond. Even if I physically could, I would not have known what to say. I blacked out again.

Though physical therapy I was able to bring myself to walk again, I can even play basketball if I want, though I am a shadow of my former self on the court. I went to trial, and was sentenced to five years in a minimum security prison without parole under a new measure that had been passed for dealing with people in a “road rage.” It has only been a year.

I miss my wife, I miss my parents, I miss my work, I miss my friends, I miss my cat, I miss my car, DAMMIT I MISS MY LIFE!

So what now? I wish I could say I was repentant, that I wish it had not happened. Actually, I do wish it had not happened, but repentant? I just do not know. Would I do it again? I would like to say no, to assure everyone something like this would not happen again, but I do not know if I can. Hard to tell, see where I am coming from? I mean, I did it once, and surprised the hell out of myself, so how can I say I would not do it again? If you had asked me two years ago, or told me this was going to happen in the future, I would have laughed. But now? I just do not know. I have more time to think about it though, and I hope that when my time is up in this hellhole, I will be able to look my family and friends in the eyes, tell them I am sorry, tell them it will not happen again, and mean it. In the meantime, I will try not to cry myself to sleep too many nights, wondering if I will be able to tell them that with an honest heart.


Like with the previous piece I'm looking for insights because I'm not exactly the most objective about my own work. Please, be as constructive as possible, and if you like the story pass the link on to others you think may like it as well.