As I type this, my fingertips tingle and my car is at the mechanics. We rung in the New Year by doing an Oregon -Lite tour ranging from Portland to the Columbia River Gorge to Bend and back down to Medford. Our trip coincided with one of the coldest winters of recent history, and we spent much of the trip surrounded by snow. I stood too close to a waterfall, toured one of my favourite breweries, visited some friends, and drove a jeep through a snowy city – all while being accompanied by my favourite travel partner. Kiva is my fearless copilot, jeep owner, unwitting model, navigator, and, yes, girlfriend.
I’m not big on holidays, owing to my cynical nature, but I enjoy New Years. There is something pure and simple about simply celebrating the passage of time and it’s cyclical ways. I like to spend New Years trying to outdo myself from the previous year,- from waking up early to watch the first sunrise of a new year, to spending it on the coast with friends and drinking cheap champagne at midnight, to spending it in a Korean nightclub surrounded by strangers, or staying at a friends house in Oceanside playing bartender and then subsequent janitor and staying up late to talk with a friend whom I hadn’t spoke to in quite some time. I like my new years like I like my life – somewhere planned out, in a variety of places, and surrounded by people I care about.
This year, I tried for Portland. I had large plans, but with most events that are figured out in advance, it didn’t quite go according to plan. Starting with my car that decided that it was the perfect time to spend some quality time with my mechanic.
Still, we took Kiva’s jeep north into the storm, and into the new year.
Two of Kiva’s good friends that have become my good friends live in Portland – Marc and Jen. We arrived in the evening, set up camp in our hotel, and all decided to go downtown and spend New Years in an Irish Pub named the Kells.
The Kells has three stories, with a cigar lounge in the basement, a live band, bar, and restaurant on the main floor, and a DJ, bar, and coat check on the top floor. We had traditional Irish dinners accompanied by drinks, as well as noisemakers, celebratory kazoos, 2017 tiaras and hats, and were in the raucous dining room surrounded by cheering crowds. We shifted up and down floors, taking an elevator manned by a gentleman with a large mustache and unmistakably orange kilt. We took our kazoos and drinks with us, and pushed our way onto the crowded dance floor after dropping off our coats. The atmosphere was thick with excitement, the floor was wet with spilled drinks, and the dancing crowd was sweating with the heat. Strangers mingled and hoped to snag a date for the midnight kiss, older men and women sat on the seats by the side of the floor, watching with looks of mixed enviousness, curiosity, and a kind of knowing laugh at our endeavours. As 2016 slipped away, we shouted the countdown, and to ring in 2017, colorful balloons were unbound from the ceiling, and they poured down on the crowd. Most of which were quickly popped, as if the angst and anguish towards 2016 could be cathartically directed towards those balloons. I never managed to grab one, but I did manage to misspend some energy trying to save some. We, along with the other revelers, danced as much as we could, until slowly emptying out onto the brick streets with the twinkling street lights that were littered with drunks and lovers and drunk lovers. We hailed an Uber, and made our way back to our respective homes.
In the morning, we picked up Jen from her house (Marc had work), and headed to the Ava Roasteria. When Kiva lived in Portland, this was one of her haunts, and I could see why. It had the peaceful ambiance of a retreat, strong coffee, outdoor fountains, and warm and friendly staff. We learned that Jen and Marc were planning a great excursion, one that would take them around the world. Of course we quizzed her on their destinations and plans, and swapped stories and book suggestions.
After, we headed to Marc’s work because I had never been there, then went to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. We spent the first day of 2017 looking at gingerbread artwork, looking at the life cycle of a fetus, and fighting with kids for a chance to look at reptiles, fish, and prehistoric bones. It was kind of surreal, and nice. We dined at a pizza place with walls full of quotes, and parted ways. Kiva and I were headed to Camas for the night.
Kiva had been in Camas once before, on a trip she took with her mother. We stayed in the Camas Hotel, which reminded me of an old fashioned bed and breakfast. The stairs creaked as we went up the stairs to our room, a quaint corner room, with quirky lights and a tall bed. Camas seems like the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge, as well as a town caught in time. It reminded me of Ashland, where I went to school, in the sense that it was filled with small shops and artists and good food and had a simple but almost art-deco styled movie theatre. But, unlike Ashland, it was a factory town. Next to it was a large paper mill, which I’m told emanated a kind of smell, but was not noticeable to me.
We ate breakfast the next morning at Natalia’s, and set out east – towards the waterfalls, the gorge, the cold, and eventually, Bend.