Category Archives: The Oregon (Moving) Trail

Oregon Moving Trail: Lessons Learned Part II

Picking up from where I left off last time, here are a few more of the lessons I learned in the process of moving to Oregon. I apologize in advance for the overwhelming amount of Grand Canyon pictures, but it was unavoidable.

  1. The Grand Canyon is beyond words amazing. I knew this intellectually. I knew this to the extent that I chose to stop for an extra night in Arizona for the sole purpose of seeing the Grand Canyon. I knew this enough that I could not even wait until the next day to see it and drove there almost as soon as I checked into my hotel. But nothing could have prepared me for that first breathtaking moment, standing on the edge of an incomprehensibly large canyon wholly in awe of the colors and the textures and the utter awesomeness of it. IMG_2340IMG_2379
    IMG_2285
    Even Sydney was impressed

    And that was just the beginning. Before the end of the day, I had savored every moment of a spectacular sunset. IMG_2433 IMG_2528 IMG_2520 IMG_2450IMG_2537The next morning I woke up at 3 am to ensure I made it back to the Grand Canyon in time for the sunrise. Despite the early (oh, so early) hour, it was truly one of the most memorable and magnificent mornings of my life – each moment more exquisite than the one before, the skies an ever-changing arrangement of color as the stillness of darkness slowly intensified into the magical light of early morning. Although I had enjoyed the sunset of the previous day, the quiet, uncrowded early morning was by far my preference. IMG_2554 IMG_2586IMG_2601IMG_2609IMG_2632IMG_2651IMG_2657As if having a most extraordinary morning were not enough, I then experienced the canyon in a whole new way as I hiked a portion of the Bright Angel Trail. Even as I slowly made my way up the trail (as they say – hiking down is a choice, hiking up is not; and it is both hot and steep), I could not help but appreciate the enormous complexity of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes I would pause and just touch the surprisingly cool walls of the canyon, awed by the history written upon and in them. IMG_2825 IMG_2785 IMG_2780 IMG_2772 IMG_2746 IMG_2730 IMG_2720 IMG_2719 IMG_2715 IMG_2702This day was one of the great ones.

  2. Sydney is a man magnet. IMG_2303So, maybe I already kind of knew this, but I appreciated her cute guy attracting skills even more as I made my way across the country alone. Being rather introverted, it is sometimes difficult for me to meet new people or to feel confident talking to someone I do not know that well. Enter Sydney. Thanks to her, I had no difficulty having interesting conversations or finding someone to talk to other than a hotel front desk clerk or a waiter. As an added bonus, many of the above mentioned people whom I met happened to be good-looking and have accents. I knew I brought her along for a reason. Although, to be fair, she really is a people magnet more generally, but man magnet was more alliterative. Plus, cute guys with accents…
  3. I learned what a desert really is. And what it is is Nevada. Having never been to anywhere in the state other than Las Vegas, I never grasped how truly desolate much of the rest of Nevada is. It was almost a surreal experience driving through so much nothingness. Between Vegas and Reno, there was the occasional small town (and by small I mean maybe 100 people and a couple of donkeys).
    Really, there were donkeys. Walking down the road. In a town.
    Really, there were donkeys. Walking down the road. In a town.

    Each time I passed one, I would uneasily wonder what life would be like in such a place – isolated from most of the world and seemingly far from modern conveniences. And yet, such isolation made a place like Tonopah, Nevada possible. I had added this as a stop because it was a relatively convenient stopping point between the Grand Canyon and Oregon and because, as I researched my trip, I found that this old silver mining town (for that was the only reason the town ever existed) is considered one of the best places in the US to see the stars, largely due to its isolation from pretty much everything else. As soon as I verified that there was a pet friendly hotel other than the Clown Motel (which was somehow even more unimaginably creepy in person), I knew I had to stop there. IMG_2905 IMG_2913 IMG_2924I was still reeling a bit from my day at the Grand Canyon, so it would take a bit to impress me at this point. Regardless, I drove out into the desert, because a single woman driving out into the desert at night in one of the darkest places in the US is always a great idea. I am so glad I did. I sat on the front of my car in the cool desert air almost unable to believe my eyes. As my eyes adjusted to a whole new level of darkness, I could see literally thousands of stars. Thousands. And the Milky Way. The Milky freaking Way. I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time (seriously – are you picturing how completely ridiculous I must have looked at that moment?). The immensity was beautiful and humbling.

  4. I am capable of more than I ever thought possible. More than anything else, I think this was what I learned during the trip. I can move to Oregon, I can drive across the country, I can talk to people I have never met, I can deal with challenging and unexpected situations, I can finally be a psychologist. The list goes on and on and includes some things I never could have imagined myself doing a year ago, or even six months ago. But I have done them. Not because they were easy or unscary or because I thought myself capable of them, because most of these things were hard and terrifying and seemingly impossible. Instead of waiting to be sure of myself, I jumped in with both feet and no life raft and figured it out as I went along. I am still figuring it out. But I have learned that I do not have to have it all figured out in order to move forward. That is a lesson I always want to remember. IMG_2311

Oregon Moving Trail: Lessons Learned Part I

The randomly chosen winner of last week’s giveaway is Jen Shipley!! Congrats! If you did not win, don’t worry – I have enjoyed picking out fun stuff so much that I think I will continue to do so on future trips. If there are any specific types of giveaways that you are interested in (e.g., jewelry), feel free to let me know.

And now, onto the topic of my move to Oregon. On the list of things that I never thought I would do, moving to Oregon, much less by myself, would definitely be on the list. And yet, a few weeks ago, I found myself doing just that. Unsurprisingly, the most common question I have gotten since moving here is some version of “What brings you to Oregon?” That is not to be confused with the most common comment, which is “You don’t sound like you’re from Texas!” I obviously correct them and share that I am actually from Arkansas, and yet the surprise at my apparent lack of a southern accent persists.

Okay, back to the most common question. Honestly, I have had difficulty answering questions about why I chose to move to Oregon because I do not fully know myself why I am here other than, for various reasons, it became something that I wanted to do. I have tried different responses to that question, but they all seem a little hollow. Or crazy. For instance, saying aloud that I moved to Oregon because one of my best friends moved to Oregon actually makes me feel a little crazy, in part because, although that reason is both true and wonderful, it also feels insubstantial. Of course, there is the long version of the story, which would probably make a little more sense, but that is hardly something you tell someone the first time you meet them (well, unless that person is your therapist, and then in that case, you might). Ultimately I wanted a different kind of life and I pursued that desire, but even those words only inadequately capture the complexity and depth of my choice to move.

Not that moving to Oregon was even the end point – really it was only the beginning and it is now up to me to day-by-day build the kind of life that I want. Now that I am here and working on building that life, it is fun to recall the adventure I had driving out west. Plus I learned a few things along the way.

  1. Spray painting things is fun. Perhaps you were already aware of the fun that could be had from illicitly spray painting things, but I have not exactly had an extensive history of vandalizing objects with graffiti. After leaving Dallas at the ridiculous hour of 6 am, my first major stop was Amarillo, TX.
    Only coffee and the realization I was actually moving to Oregon could make me smile about beginning a long day of driving at 6 in the morning.
    Only coffee and the realization I was actually moving to Oregon could make me smile about beginning a long day of driving at 6 in the morning.

    I had one last lunch at Rosa’s, savoring every last bite of my chicken fajita with queso, before parking on the side of the feeder road to see a bunch of Cadillacs half-buried in the dirt.

    Sydney was hoping I would share. I did not.
    Sydney was hoping I would share. I did not.

    Having never stopped at Cadillac Ranch, it seemed like one of those things I should do before leaving Texas. Plus, it gave both Sydney and me a chance to stretch our legs. IMG_2043Oh, and to spray paint things, namely cars. IMG_2065It was even more fun than I expected it to be, although I do apologize for the poor quality of my handiwork. Somehow “Bye TX” was the best I could come up with. And it did not even look that good. I blame the wind. IMG_2084Regardless of my shoddy graffiti skills, I am glad I finally had a chance to see Cadillac Ranch.

    Sydney had a blast running around the cars. She had even more fun saying hello to the people we met while we were there.
    Sydney had a blast running around the cars. She had even more fun saying hello to the people we met while we were there.

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  2. I realized that in moving to Oregon, I was finally reclaiming my life from the chaos and heartbreak of the previous 2 years. I had plenty of time to think about the move I was making. I considered what others might think or feel about it, I carefully scanned my own thoughts and feelings, and I even thought of the different directions my life could have been taking at that very moment. There were times when I felt joy and excitement about the life I was going to and times when I wept for the life I was forever and finally leaving behind. In the course of the drive, I released the remaining pieces of bitterness and anger as I drove and drove and drove. The drive gave me the time and the space to fully put to rest the grief I have felt for the life I thought I would have and to arrive in Oregon truly ready for whatever blessings and hardships my new beginning will hold.
  3. A long day of driving melts away with a good meal and a prickly pear margarita. IMG_2160Before beginning the trip, I was a little nervous about all of the driving I would be doing and especially about the 2 days when I would have particularly long stretches of driving. Prior to the move, the farthest I had ever driven by myself was the drive between Texas and Arkansas to see family. On this trip, my shortest days of driving would be longer than that. I really wondered how I would manage to keep my sanity. So, in typical Cora fashion, I got the worst over with right away: Dallas to Albuquerque was my longest day of driving – about 10 hours not counting stops. I armed myself with plentiful coffee and months of hoarded Radiolab episodes and prepared for a few days of maybe being miserable. But I was surprised to find it was really not all that bad. I gave myself permission to stop when I wanted to, had brought plenty of music and podcasts, and made an effort to appreciate the changing scenery outside of my car. And each evening, I took some time to relax. For instance, in Albuquerque, I had intentionally booked a hotel near the Old Town district because it seemed like the perfect spot to unwind after my longest driving day. IMG_2153IMG_2188Although I arrived too late for most of the shops to be open, I enjoyed walking around Old Town and finding a great spot for dinner. As I made a valiant effort to eat a giant burrito (with red and green chili, of course), I tried to comprehend that only that morning I had been in Dallas and I temporarily belonged nowhere and meanwhile I was eating dinner on a patio in New Mexico. IMG_2168After dinner, as I walked through more of Old Town, I happened across a band playing in the plaza to a small crowd of people. It was a beautiful evening and I was in no hurry to get back to the hotel, so Sydney and I found a shady spot to sit and enjoy the music. IMG_2171 IMG_2183All the fatigue and boredom of a long day of driving? Totally forgotten.
  4. I live in an amazing country. Something about driving cross-country gave me a whole new appreciation for the vastness, beauty, and variety of the United States. There is so much to see. IMG_2112 IMG_2234 IMG_2858 IMG_2980Although I have been to 31 states (and driven through 5 or 6 more), I have still seen so little of what there is to see. As I drove through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Oregon, I noticed a whole new excitement building about continuing to explore the US in the future. Although, to be honest, Nevada did test that excitement a bit. Thankfully, California and Oregon gave me some time to renew my excitement before the end of my trip. Here’s to future adventures as I continue to work on my goal of going to every state.

I was planning to keep writing stuff, but I still have to talk about the Grand Canyon (hint: it was just about the best. day. ever.) and that will involve approximately a million pictures, so I decided to break it up into a second post. So, next time will be a bit more about the move to Oregon and then I plan to share some helpful pointers about travelling with a pet. Pointer number one will be do not travel with Sydney.

The Oregon Moving Trail: Giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winner is Jen Shipley. 

Contrary to the extensive worries of my mother, I managed to drive halfway across the country alone without dying, being abducted, or otherwise coming to harm. And contrary to my somewhat more realistic concern, I managed to do so without getting hopelessly lost along the way. To celebrate the not insignificant accomplishment of moving from Texas to Oregon, I am hosting another giveaway!

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The giveaway is for this pair of earrings that I picked up in Arizona. To enter to win, leave a comment on this post telling me about a major change you have made in your life. Or about the craziest thing you have ever done. Or just say that you want to win the earrings. 🙂 Entries will be accepted through midnight Pacific time on Saturday September 27 and a randomly chosen winner will be announced on Sunday September 28. Good luck!

I cannot wait to share more about my move to Oregon, the amazing things I saw along the way, and how I kept myself and sort of kept my dog from going crazy during the long and lonely drive (seriously, have you ever seen Nevada?)!

It’s Really Happening…

Okay, so I know that I promised to finish writing about my trip to Tennessee, which I will. But last week, something happened. And that something is…

…I got a job in Oregon! Almost exactly six months after my last-minute, first-time trip to Oregon, I will be moving halfway across the country to start a life in Oregon. In Oregon! In six weeks, give or take a couple of days, I will be leaving Texas and driving to my beautiful new home. How crazy and wonderful is that?! That being said, my blog has taken a bit of a backseat. I have had a few minor details to address such as how to get all my stuff from Texas all 2000+ miles away to Oregon. And where on earth I’m going to live when I get there. So perhaps I may not have quite as much time to write. I promise to make up for it by writing about all the awesome stuff I do when I get there!

I’m not someone who believes that one can do “anything they set their mind to.” For instance, even with utmost determination and perseverance, I would never, ever be a basketball player. Anyone who has ever seen me attempt to play basketball can attest to that. That is, if they can interrupt their laughter at the memory of said attempts long enough to provide a description. However, I do believe that there is much that can be accomplished with a dream, concerted effort, and the support of loved ones. I am so fortunate to be able to live out this dream and am excited to see what is next down this road.

That Time I Went to Oregon Part II

After a fun day in Portland and an incredibly beautiful drive to southern Oregon, I was looking forward to exploring more of the area around Medford.

Even the view from the hotel was gorgeous.
Even the view from the hotel was gorgeous.

I chose to spend my morning hiking Lower Table Rock. The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are a pair of mesas a few miles outside of Medford. I chose the latter due to the longer and slightly more challenging trail.

Obviously, based on my persistence in Portland, it takes more than a little rain to derail my plans, so I set out on a dreary and drizzly morning.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

As I began the hike, I felt like I entered another world. The pale green moss-covered trees made for a magical, otherworldly landscape as the cool rain continued to fall.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

The trail continued with a steady 1.6 mile incline to the top of the mesa. As the trail ascended, the scenery slowly changed. And I was clearly reminded why hiking in Dallas is not nearly adequate preparation for hiking the Inca Trail.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Although much of the trail was wooded, there were moments where the trees opened up to incredible views of Mount McLoughlin, the Siskiyous, and the Cascades in the distance.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Once at the top of the mesa, the remnant of an old airplane strip stretched across the flat top for a mile. Thankfully, the rain had stopped by the time I reached the top, so I could enjoy the views in all directions as I walked to the edge.

I really should stop posting so many pictures of myself without makeup...
I really should stop posting so many pictures of myself without makeup…

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Apparently in the spring, the top of the mesa is covered in wildflowers. Perhaps I should move to Oregon so that I have a chance to to see it!
Apparently in the spring, this is covered in wildflowers. Perhaps I should move to Oregon so that I have a chance to to see it!
For part of the year, there are vernal pools across the top of the mesa.
For part of the year, there are vernal pools across the top of the mesa.

Lower Table Rock

Walking the 2 miles roundtrip to reach the southern viewpoint of Lower Table Rock was more than worth it. The view from the edge was breathtaking. And not just because I had been hiking.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Once I descended, I explored the short praireland trail at the bottom of the mesa before heading back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

After doing pretty much nothing for the rest of the afternoon, I got ready for dinner with my friend.

An obligatory pre-dinner selfie because, you know, my hair looked kind of good. And because I was actually wearing makeup.
An obligatory pre-dinner selfie because, you know, my hair looked kind of good. And because I was actually wearing makeup.

That evening, we headed back to Ashland to try Standing Stone Brewing Company. With an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant and brewery was the perfect spot for a delicious dinner. On some nights, there is live music to go along with the craft beer and yummy food.

Standing Stone Brewing

Standing Stone Brewing

I even decided to branch out and order a beer. If you know me, this is practically revolutionary. I guess if I’m going to rebel by simply going to Oregon, I might as well go all the way and do something totally crazy like drink a beer. It was surprisingly good and seemed a more appropriate accompaniment to my burger than did wine.

Me. Drinking beer.
Me. Drinking beer.

Standing Stone Brewing

Standing Stone Brewing

I sadly had to head back to Texas the next day. Since I’ve been back, I have continued to consider the exciting possibility of moving to Oregon. Perhaps by this time next year, I will be eating another meal at Standing Stone Brewery reflecting on the first, impulsive trip I took to Oregon a year earlier. Regardless, from this trip I learned that stepping out of my comfort zone can be rewarding, not everything about my life needs a plan (okay, so I’m not entirely convinced this is true…), and that sometimes the worthwhile things in life require some discomfort along the way.

 

That Time I Went to Oregon Part I

Words that have not, to my knowledge, been used to describe me: impulsive, irresponsible, relaxed, goes with the flow (yes, I realize that’s a phrase, not a word), rule-breaker. You get the idea. On that note, let me tell you about the craziest thing I have ever done.

I booked a trip to Oregon.

Let me pause while you wrap your mind around such wild and reckless behavior…

Okay, now that you have picked your jaw up off the floor, let me explain.  When I was growing up, I rarely got in trouble. I did not even do typical teenager things like break curfew because I DID NOT EVEN HAVE A CURFEW. My parents were so unconcerned that I would actually break a rule that they did not even bother to give me a curfew. I was that teenager.

As an adult, my rule abiding tendencies have generally continued. I get all sweaty and itchy if I even think about doing something wrong or unpredictable. Which is why my recent behavior, you know the whole Oregon thing, is utterly shocking. At least for me.

Rather than fully explain the “wrong” and irresponsible portion of the equation, suffice it to say that I purchased a plane ticket to Oregon approximately 100 hours before I left. All it took was a text from a friend suggesting that I join her on her trip to Oregon and I was headed down a path that will almost certainly lead to desolation and despair. Or, at the very least, to me moving halfway across the country. Which is, according to some members of my family, practically the same thing.

See how excited I am about breaking the rules. Oregon, here I come!
See how excited I am about being irresponsible. Oregon, here I come!

My first stop in Oregon was, where else, Portland. Given that my image of Portland was derived from a strange mix of Grimm and Portlandia, my expectations were high. And Portland did not disappoint. Well, I sadly did not meet any vegetarian werewolves, but I was otherwise not disappointed. Actually, my tour guide had been in an episode of Grimm. But I’m jumping ahead.

Given that it was my first visit to Portland and I just had a few hours to spend, I began my day with the well-known Voodoo Doughnut.

Voodoo Donut

Voodoo Donut

Voodoo Donut

Cliché perhaps, but the peach fritter I ordered was wonderful. Things to know – the selection of doughnuts is, ummm, interesting and they only accept cash. Obviously not wanting to take my rebellious behavior too far, I think I must have subconsciously ordered the tamest item on the menu. Oh, and seating is nonexistent inside (although there is a bar where you can stand) so you might end up eating the fried deliciousness sitting outside in the rain. Not that I speak from experience.

Look at that face - only a trip and a really good fritter could make me look that happy while sitting in the rain.
Only being on a trip and eating a really good fritter could make me look that happy while sitting in the rain.
This thing was seriously bigger than my face...
This thing was seriously bigger than my face…

After the all-important combination of sugar and coffee, I was ready for the walking tour I booked with Portland Walking Tours.

Trying to momentarily hide from the rain. Before walking in the rain for two more hours.
Trying to momentarily hide from the rain. Before walking in the rain for two more hours.

The Best of Portland Walking Tour was the perfect way to get an overview of Portland. I even got the full Portland experience when it rained the entire tour. The tour began in Pioneer Square and ended at the waterfront. In between, my guide David provided a fantastic history of the city.

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square

Portland Walking Tours - Pioneer Square

The tour covered the entire history of the city, but especially focused on the transition of Portland from one of the most polluted cities in the US to the model of greenness that it is today.

Portlandia. Apparently it's not just a television show...
Portlandia. Apparently it’s not just a television show.

Portland

Portland

Portland

Portland Walking Tours

This is supposedly the penny that was flipped to name the city. The city could have been named Boston.
This is supposedly the penny that was flipped to name the city. The other option was Boston.

Portland

Portland

My tour guide was in an episode of Grimm, which is filmed entirely in Portland. The bar in the background is where his scenes were filmed, although they ostensibly took place somewhere in Europe.
My tour guide was in an episode of Grimm, which is filmed entirely in Portland. The bar in the background is where his scenes were filmed, although they ostensibly took place somewhere in Europe.
The world's smallest park
The world’s smallest park

Portland

I can highly recommend Portland Walking Tours. Not only was it a cogent and engaging introduction to the city, at $20 it was a great value. Plus I was able to walk off approximately 2% of the calories I consumed at breakfast. Bonus!

If I’m ever back in Portland, I would love to do another tour with Portland Walking Tours – perhaps one of their food tours. There is even a tour centered on sampling chocolate, which pretty much sounds amazing. Yes, please.

Despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my walking tour of Portland, I was thrilled when my friend picked me up and I could get out of the rain. Desperate for something warm to drink, we quickly found a spot for lunch. Dar Essalam is just south of Portland in Wilsonville. Cozy and absolutely delicious, this Moroccan restaurant was the perfect spot for me to recover from an entire morning spent in the cold and rain.

Hummus and pita bread
Hummus and pita bread

Lunch at Dar Essalam

Mint tea
Mint tea
Lamb kabob
Lamb kabob

From there, I enjoyed the ever changing views as we drove south to Medford, Oregon. I knew Oregon would be beautiful, but even then I was surprised by how beautiful. As I considered the possibility of moving to Oregon (which, to be clear, is still just a possibility contingent upon whether or not I can find a job), the mountains were doing a good job of convincing me that I should.

Oregon

By the time we arrived in Medford, I had pretty much decided that I wanted to live here. But there was one absolutely crucial thing to determine. There is one thing I could (probably) not live without even for mountain views and vineyards (oh yeah, did I mention there are vineyards?!): Mexican food. Lack of decent Mexican food could possibly be a deal breaker. So for dinner that evening, we headed a few miles away to the charming town of Ashland to try Agave Tamales.

Ashland

Ashland

I couldn't possibly move somewhere that did not have decent Mexican food...
I couldn’t possibly move somewhere that did not have decent Mexican food…
Not quite my homemade guacamole, but not bad.
Not quite my homemade guacamole, but not bad.
This was a delicious posole.
This was a delicious posole.
Green chile and cheese tamale
Green chile and cheese tamale

One night in Oregon as I ate mouthwatering Mexican food while reflecting on a rainy day and rainbows, I felt the beginnings of a new life in a new place. By no means is that new life a certainty and many things may change in the next few months. But, by taking a chance, by stepping out of my comfort zone and booking a plane ticket, I allowed myself the opportunity to see the possibilities. And those possibilities are really exciting.