Eastern Oregon and Chicago – Travel Thursday

Eastern Oregon and Chicago – Travel Thursday

I haven’t posted a travel round up in a while, and I was waiting to cover all of November at once, thinking I had one more trip in November when that trip was…cancelled.  Is it too wrong to be delighted about that?  I have to admit and it’s hard for me to admit that I just might be, just a smidgen, totally and completely traveled out. 

So let’s go back to the beginning of November, shall we?  November was a whirlwind of travel to three locations – two in the PNW and one outside the PNW.  I went to Sunriver, Oregon sometime in early November and then back to Bend, Oregon in later November with Chicago sandwiched in between.

I’m going to start with the east side of Oregon.  Bend is a hip little place along Highway 97, east of the Cascade Mountains.  Sunriver is a little further south of Bend and is a resort complete with its own golf course, air strip, and shopping center.  Both are sandwiched between multiple volcanoes, because after all, what else would you expect in a state that is technically along the ring of fire?  It’s hard for me not to drive past Mt. Hood on Highway 26 on the way to Bend and not think to myself, hm, I’m driving along an active volcano.  Wonder what would happen if it pulled a Mt. St. Helens? 

Eastern Oregon reminds me so much of New Mexico, where I lived for four years.  Though I love living in the rainforest ecosystem of the Cascades, I do miss these kinds of sunsets:


Though Bend has many restaurants, it just so happened on the first trip that we were hungry enough to pull off in Redmond, which is about 20 minutes north of Bend.  We discovered a charming Mexican place called Diego’s Spirit Kitchen and ate dinner there the first night…and then went back for lunch…and then went there again for lunch when we went back to Bend two weeks later.  Here’s why:

chicken-with-mole-verde  fish-tacos-redmond carnitas-ravioli

From left to right: chicken mole verde; fish tacos, carnitas ravioli

Plus on the first night, each table had these gorgeous little yellow mums that played so well off the brick red walls:


Redmond was looking all festive already and I positively love this pic:


There was a little stopover in Sunriver for business and then I turned around and went back home.  On the first trip, we stopped at a rest stop on Hwy 97 to check out a canyon.  This is not a place that is for the faint of heart when it comes to heights.  Especially when you can’t stop thinking about that active volcano thing and all the potential for earthquake activity along the Cascadia fault zone.


I rested up for a weekend for the next trip – did some laundry and repacked.  Then it was off to Chicago.  I’d been to Chicago once, about 20 years ago with my ex-husband.  This was back when I was younger, stubborn, and absolutely petrified of flying, to the point that I insisted we take the train to Chicago and then drive a car to Appleton, Wisconsin to meet the ex’s family.  I have four memories from that trip: 1) I should have been more worried about train wrecks than plane wrecks, because the train hit an unloaded flatbed and nearly derailed (no one was injured), 2) reporters in rural Iowa must be really, really bored, because they tried storming the train as we sat there waiting for a replacement engine car to show up to get eyewitness stories; 3) only having time to go to the gift store at the Chicago Art Institute will eventually lead to a relationship break-up; and 4) we went to the most amazing haunted house experience I’ve ever had in Milwaukee – it was in an old 1900s house with actors and was incredibly scary and good. 

My more recent trip to Chicago was much less eventful.  I was there for work, of course, and stayed in the Palmer Hilton Hotel.  If you are at all into art deco architecture and style, this is place is a must see.  There is a spectacular peacock door at the entrance and murals on the ceiling in the lobby – it’s breathtaking. 



The food was really good, too – and not just from room service – the conference food was good (trust me – that’s a rarity). 

pavlova caprese-and-greens salmon-caesar

From left to right: berry pavlova, caprese salad, salmon Caesar salad

I slipped away from the conference for about an hour during a social time and went to the Chicago Art Institute.  This time, I actually saw the exhibits (not just the gift shop).  This was a powerful moment for me, as I was traveling the day of the US election, so was in Chicago both during and after and will confess that the state of the country was weighing heavily on my heart.  I’m not here to get into politics, but will say that wandering the halls at the Art Institute made me feel heartened by the extraordinary beauty and creative power of human beings: from the anonymous sculptures of Buddha to the Hopper painting “Nighthawks”, I just felt at peace.  It was a perfectly timed visit for me.  I also left my phone in my purse and didn’t take photos – art museums to me are nearly holy places and I just wanted to absorb.

But I did get a picture of the lions outside the museum, all decked out in their Cubs caps. 


Then it was back to Oregon and one more time to Bend.  It had started to snow over the pass on Highway 26, so I got this beauty of a picture, which made me just the slightest bit nostalgic for Colorado, where I grew up.


We had a little change of pace with dinner, going to a pizza place in Bend that served great beer (and great pizza, too).


On the way home, we had just enough time to stop by this really cool roadside attraction – the Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras.  Despite my youthful fear of flying, I’ve always been a little airplane obsessed – I know, weird, right?  I love going to aircraft museums and just taking in the ingenuity and engineering that goes into airplanes.  The Erickson collection is a private collection of mostly World War II era planes.  I particularly loved the pinup girls painted on some of the planes.  There were several more but they were a little too NSFW for this post.

tangerine-tango madras-maiden

So – my short summary to a long post.  If you happen to get to the east side of Oregon, there are some great things to do and places to eat.  I can’t stop raving about Diego’s Spirit Kitchen – it’s rare that we keep going back to one restaurant when traveling, especially when there are lots of options as there are in Bend.  Chicago is such an utterly different kind of place, but as far as I could tell, it had a bit of the PNW vibe, which I really appreciated.  It’s high on my bucket list of towns to back to for pleasure rather than for business, and I will definitely be spending time at the Palmer Hilton again, because, just wow. 

And that should be it for a while for travel.  I’m looking forward to some staycation time in Portland, with maybe a trip or two to the coast.  Until then, feel free to share some of your great travel adventures in the comments below – I’d love to read them!

6 thoughts on “Eastern Oregon and Chicago – Travel Thursday

  1. I’m so glad you had time to visit the Art Institute. I’m from Chicago and have been several times! The Palmer House is classic — they have a really cool bar too.

    1. Me, too! I would have never forgiven myself if I hadn’t gone this time around. The Palmer House has cocktails on their menu – not something I experience at many hotels – so though I retreated to my room each night, I was able to enjoy several of their bar classics.

    1. Thank you, Stefanie! I was really lucky to get a good picture of that sunset – we just pulled off on the side of the road and I snapped the picture. That’s the one thing I miss the most about living in a drier climate is the beautiful sunsets.

  2. What a cool trip!! Also,
    1) yes, the Iowa people were bored. I grew up there, and there’s not much for news. HA!!
    2) Where in Milwaukee was this haunted house?! I went to school north of MKE and then lived there afterwards for several years. I miss it DEARLY.
    3) I think the AI in Chi actually IS holy. I was just there last Christmas for the second or third time. It’s just incredible. The Monets. Oh my heart.
    I love that you went to these places! The Midwest is near and dear to me and hearing other people’s perspectives on them is so fun. Now I’m down south in GA and after 2+ years, I’m still trying to like it.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Joy! The Iowa experience was pretty interesting – the worst part of it was that the reporters were so aggressive, they opted to close all the windows on the train, which made it really miserable. By the time we got to Chicago, the car rental place was closed, so we ended up taking a taxi to O’Hare to rent a car – definitely a trip I will never forget. I wish I knew where the haunted house was – all I remember is that it was in a Victorian house and it was local actors who put it on – each room in the house was a different scary theme and all of it was very much created by the story and the mood of the actors. It culminated in a super creepy seance in the basement of the house.

      I loved the Monets! I couldn’t get over what an awesome collection of impressionists the AI has.

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