Earlier this year, Gadling ran a promotion challenging readers to define their perfect road trip. The winner of the competition won a two day road trip of their choice in a brand new Cadillac SRX, with fuel, lodging and airfare all covered. We had a wealth of excellent entries ranging from trips through the Florida Keys to leaf tours through the Northeast to jaunts down the California coast, but our lucky winner chose a long road trip through the great state of Oregon, beginning in the metropolis of Portland then working down the coast to Crater Lake National Park.
Dilligent bloggers as we are, we sent a team to follow in the footprints, documenting the journey and consuming the Oregon asphault in a similar SRX.
What emerged was more than a simple road trip through the Northwest. Two old friends on the hilly backroads of Oregon experienced one of the finest states that America has to offer, a perfect cross section of city, country, desert, forest, good people, better food and a few beers along the way.
A remarkable, moving experience, our journey began in Portland.
As luck would have it, we scheduled our road trip over the weekend of October 17th, right as the leaves in the Northwest were starting to turn. Arriving after dark that Friday, we were shocked to wake up and see rolling hills of red and yellow maples. Despite the forecasted rain, breaks in the low, dark grey clouds allowed for seams of sun to peer into the city, contrasting deeply with the darkness above and colors below.
In case you have never been to Portland, let me sum it up for you in a few short words. Super fantastic. The largest city in Oregon, Portland has a huge alternative culture scene, with hundreds of good independent bars and restaurants, free downtown public transportation, plenty of style and good weather and topography to match. Were it not for the annual rainfall, this could be utopia.
Prior to docking into our hotel Friday evening, we stopped by to visit our friends at Voodoo Donuts, the “must-stop” donut shop for anyone who’s visiting the great city of Portland. Waiting with a full box of 12 Voodoo Doughnuts, our friend Dave gave us a few tips for the city and sent us on our way, but not before some new friends from the street enjoyed a few bites from the mix.
To Crater Lake
By way of I-5 it’s about 4 hours to Crater Lake from Portland, and the SRX seamlessly accepted our destination and led us steadfastly south with the onboard GPS. Sooner or later, all eastbound travelers need to cross into the Willamette, Deschutes or Umpqua national forests, so despite our vehicle’s directions we veered off course at Eugene, OR after a trip through the local farmer’s market to stock up on fresh cider and warm, delicious rice and beef.
Into the forest the drive becomes exponentially more interesting. Two lane roads swing around massive mountains ranges, and as the SRX growled past the rivers and the forests we opened up the extended sun roof and let the music consume the valley. Without a destination guide in our hands the winding roads in front of us became a mystery, each turn holding a new outstanding view, small town or landmark that we hadn’t expected to find. Just short of Odell lake, this is how we found Salt Creek Falls, the second highest falls in the state.
Rain came and went as the terrain changed, but once we crossed into the high desert the clouds began to disperse. Our luck wouldn’t hold at high elevation, however, and as we approached Crater Lake National Park the ranger at the front gate warned us that most of the park was under clouds. That didn’t stop us from grabbing a few pictures at the gate and once up top, however. In case you’re wondering, that bottom photo was shot in color.
Through Bend and Back to Portland
With daylight drawing to a close, we decided to drive to Bend for the night. A modest city of 50,000 people, Bend has everything that a hip, Oregon city requires: a thriving nightlife, tons of cafes and restaurants and most importantly: Microbreweries. Our dinner after a long day of driving and socializing was hearty, unique and delicious, and with a good layer of base food in our stomachs a dramatic, if not somewhat strange, night was the perfect way to cap off the day.
The late start Saturday morning barely set us back, and behind the steady wheel of the SRX it was a quick three hour journey back to Portland. In reverse, the hills and colors of the national forest ensconced us, deep green coniferous forests as we passed Mt. Washington, and yellow, yellow, yellow as the maples began their transition.
It was almost a shame reaching Portland again, the rolling hills behind us and a wonderful journey completed.
Our thanks to Cadillac for providing a free Cadillac SRX and fuel for the journey. It’s navigation, satellite radio, perfect handling, and non stop gadgetry left us (two engineers by training) amazed and giddy during the entire drive, and even the officer that pulled us over was impressed by the sharp design. A well done vehicle indeed.