Monday, October 6, 2014


            It was on our drive back from Pendleton, OR at the end of June of this year that the plans transpired. The plans that set in motion the complete uplifting of our lives we had settled into in Portland to seek out an adventure of our life times. 

        I officially moved to Portland in October of 2011 after four seasons of work in Denali National Park, Alaska. I had spent a few winters here before the permanent move and I had fallen in love with the city. Prior to settling down I had been moving every 5 to 6 months as a part of the seasonal life and trying to travel when I wasn’t working.  Though I had many amazing experiences in that time from two separate trips backpacking in Central and South America, and took two cross country road trips in my trusty little car I named Little Skittle (documented in previous blog posts in 2009 and 2010), I needed a home and a community. I was becoming very lonely with the constant uprooting and had an urge to do something more meaningful with my life. I knew my love for adventure and travel would never disappear and expected I would leap back into exploring the world after a good rest.

Singing for an event on Mississippi Ave in my friend's patio lot.
            Turns out doing something “meaningful”  and setting down roots was extremely expensive. I became an EMT and volunteered with Americorps training teens on trail building and nestled in a low paying job with an ambulance company. I watched my beautiful savings disappear and for the first time in my life accrued credit card debt. It didn’t take very long with my attempts at being a real adult to know I landed on the wrong path career wise. But I had fallen even more in love with Portland. Music resurfaced in my life with a vengeance. I drove my electric piano from Wisconsin to Portland and began to play again. I joined a quirky ukulele band 20 members strong where we dressed up in outrageous outfits and performed punk rock covers from venues to the streets for a very welcoming Portland audience. Over the years I acquired a real upright piano, a pump organ, a violin, and briefly tried to learn the cello. My life was filled with bluegrass potlucks, nights of barbeques and jamming with friends, or going to see live shows, usually where I knew the people on stage. I even had the honor of playing with some friends on their Sunday gig playing at a food cart on SE 32nd and Division. Music was everywhere and I felt more in my element than I had in a long time.

Jamming with Closely Watched Trains and friends at the food carts
Toucan Sam and the Fruitloops playing Uke-O de Mayo

One of our last shows in downtown Portland

Favorite spot in the Columbia Gorge

The outdoors was my other love that rooted me deeper in Portland. I spent the summers hiking and biking and playing in parks or along the waterfront. You could find me biking the vast trail systems of the city, riding to commute, or riding with the crazy themed rides of Pedalpalooza in June.  I even biked the rim of Crater Lake last summer which was 33 miles long and did my first mini bike tour of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. I hiked numerous trails through the Columbia Gorge, Mt. Hood, Tillamook Forest, and all along the coast and had the honor of summiting Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams last summer. I even snuck in a 10 day trip to Glacier National Park and a week long adventure hiking the Lost Coast in California in the summer of 2013. I never took a vacation day for any of these adventures (the only benefit of working three 12 hour shifts a week, sometimes 6 days in a row to get two weekends back to back).
Top of Mt Adams

Top of Mt St. Helens

The Lost Coast, California

Portland waterfront on the day of bike adventures, summer of 2013

You can see how it would be hard to leave a life filled with all the things I love. But all good things come to an end. Last fall was harsh. The ukulele band retired in July, the food cart where I played was bought out and in its place an overpriced apartment complex was built. A lot of my music friends moved away or drifted into new projects. I began working 50 hour weeks to make more money to afford this dream of traveling again which burned me out and made me too tired to go out and see friends. It was a very cold and dark winter where I kept my house at a brisk 50 degrees and wore fleece and thick wool sweatshirts with hoods to sleep at night. I lived in an old house where the heat leaked right out the walls and it wasn’t worth our money to try to keep the heat higher, just high enough for things not to freeze. Portland’s glory days were over and I realized this is the right time to move forward.

Mt. Adams

     I met John in January and we bonded over our passion for the outdoors. He won me over with tales of his backpacking adventures, one involving a concussion, and together we got ourselves through the winter. We embraced a snow/ice storm that shut down the city and got in a snowball fight with our friends. He taught me how to ski (sort of), and w
St. Helens Mother's Day hike in dresses, a long standing tradition
e went on our own adventures in the gorge, on the mountains, and on the coast. He had a dream of visiting New Zealand, as did I. Just before my 31st birthday in June I applied for my work visa in Kiwi country just before I was too old (their cut off age requirement is 30). I got the email approving my application and it was like a cloud was lifted. I have a way out. I can do this. I didn’t share this news with John until that conversation driving home from Pendleton when he told me he would be leaving Portland to go backpacking in California and asked if I was interested in joining him. It was time to take the plunge, quit our jobs, and get out of the rut before we became stuck there.

    The next two and a half months John and I moved out of our homes, selling off most of our things in the process, and took up a temporary residence in the heart of SE Portland with John’s friends. In that time we fixed up cars (his), sold off a car (mine), sold our beds, big furniture, my beloved instruments, and began to say our goodbyes. Instead of spending our weekends that were typically enjoyed on mountains, in the gorge, or on the coast we instead spent that time preparing for our journey with said car repairs, trailer building, re-boxing things, and tedious tasks all geared toward leaving Portland for the long term. It was hard of me to let a lot of things go, like my electric piano that my parents bought for me when I was in high school to encourage me to write more music. My upright piano which I felt like a right of passage for me to own. It was my very first real piano that I owned and I chose it carefully for it's rich sound, it's lighter action, and the varnishing on the wood. It was absolutely beautiful. (I sold it to a wonderful friend who's life is full of music so I know it will be loved). I also got rid of things I had carried with me from childhood as a means to whittle down on the amount of things I owned. Often times I was on the verge of tears as I watched possessions I had grown to love over the years disappear into the hands of others. 

Tree posing with Mt. Hood in the background
(John is doing the flying crane pose)
On September 19th we boarded a plane with his parents and went to Skagway, Alaska where he had spent the latter part of his youth to help sell his parents house that they still owned there. This was the first part of our adventure/pseudo retirement that should hopefully bring us to many national parks in the US and eventually over to New Zealand and Australia.  It has been 3 and a half years since my last blog post and I look forward to plunging back in to share with you tales of inspiration and adventure.

Biking around Crater Lake

Lunch Counter part way up Mt. Adams looking out towards Mt. St. Helens

Our campsite at lunch counter at 3am just before we trekked up to the summit

The top of Mt. Adams, I joined a spontaneous 80s dance party. Mt. Jefferson looking quite lovely in the background

Part way through our bike tour of the San Juan Islands (off the coast of Washington, that's Canada in the background)

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