Hit the Road for Portopia’s Sake

By Midge Pierce

It’s good to put Portopia in the rearview mirror from time to time. Leave baggage, victim blaming, property shaming and the city’s many isms behind. Pack up troubles like bond issues that feast on your hard-earned cash. Ignore those calling neighbors “racist Nimbys” for wanting to  speak up about the RIP.

Stop worrying about three-year-olds stepping on needles in the grass. Stare down the thought police who come for you when you put vagrant and crime in the same sentence. Forget about the Big One threatening to fell your house and the political perversions felling democracy. Hit the road for Portopia’s sake.

The best way to travel is with a daughter at the wheel, a grandchild in the back entertained by an ipad and squabbling elders in the front. Record roadtrip characters like PaButt, brunt of endless five-year-old cackles; Humbug Harley who knows all the best swim holes and The Punisher with a skeleton stamped on his T-shirt and skull and bones Tat on his arm.

Detour into Josephine County’s contentious weed and wine country. It’s lush; it’s daring. With all those heady Californians, it can be to die for.

Switchback to the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, a family-friendly destination providing your family is at least 42 inches tall, the height threshold for touring twisty, marble passageways leading to vast vaults with ghost-like shadows and constant 44 degree temp. Bring layers, a steady hand for that five-year-old and newly-found friends to urge you up and down some five hundred steps.

Afterward, at the foot of a waterfall grotto, let the kid beside and within you swivel on the barstools of a knotty pine diner loaded with milkshakes, sundaes and marionberry cobbler.

Watch overly-friendly deer framed by ancient Doug fir windows. You’re at the landmark Oregon Caves Chateau where a river literally runs through its third-floor dining room.

Go this summer before the rustic, bark clad chateau closes for two years to undergo seismic and safety retrofits that include reconstruction of high-stacked balconies that once ran the length of the moss-covered canyon that cradles the lodge. Thank the Portland architects hired by the National Park Service to ensure renovation is authentic.

On the main floor (the third level up from the canyon bottom), hotel clerk/concierge/camp counselor Laurie Anne fires up the Chateau’s massive marble hearth to roast s’mores. As the sun sets down the gorge, the Chateau’s grizzled pioneer poet talks of $30 gold dust days.

Park Service staff share their own tall tales of Big Foot and Wiley Bears, reminding visitors that the marble Caves will remain open during Chateau restoration. “We want to make this the best season ever so folks come back.”

Before heading home, backroad to Jackson County’s quaint namesake village harboring what is clearly the prototype for the Coraline manse. At the nearby Applegate Lodge, fans of The Daily Show can learn the fate of Sugar Bob, the infamous deer purported to be the four-legged aficionado of the state’s finest pot.