On the road in Oregon with the 2010 Cadillac SRX

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.

Vintage candy making in Maine

Ever since 1915, Haven’s Candies has been making hand-crafted candy in a traditional way, much like the company’s founder Herbert Haven and his wife did when they first started making candy in their kitchen. They sold their confections from the parlor of their house on Forest Avenue in Portland, Maine.

Now there are three Haven’s Candies locations. The company’s flagship candy making facility, that includes a retail and wholesale store, is in Westbrook, Maine. Other retail locations are in Portland and Scarborough.

If you’ve ever wondered how candy is made the old fashioned way, this video clip of Haven’s Candies covers it. From peanut butter cups to coconut haystacks to candy canes, it’s all here. By the end, you’ll have a sweet tooth craving.

It is possible to see Haven’s Candies being made in person. There is an open house at the candy factory every year on Columbus Day. Guided tours are also available at other times. Plus, the candy making area of the Westbrook location has glass windows. When the store is open you can watch the candy production.

Photo of the Day (10-21-09)

There are some photographs that are the stuff from which novels are made–or if not a novel, a mighty fine short story–possibly written by Annie Proulx or Alice Monro. This stunning shot taken in Maine by justin fain is one of them. There’s a moody quality to the lighting and the colors that immediately drew me into the scene. Although the shot is absent of people, except for the lone boat in the distance, their presence is felt.

The question is, would the story be a romance or a horror story? Would anyone be killed? Is the person who lives here waiting for someone who is lost at sea? Is there a happy ending? Oh, I hope so.

If you have a shot that’s captured your imagination, send it our way at Gadling’s Flickr Photo Pool to capture ours. It might be chosen as a Photo of the Day.

*I think the lighthouse in the photo is the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, near Portland.

Car art of the US landscape: Weird, wacky and wonderful

It seems fitting that car art has taken its place in the landscape of the United States. When Henry Ford was crafting his Model T, he probably didn’t foresee that his innovation would lead to another type of car creativity. Yesterday for Gadling’s day of Weird America, Jeremy posted about Detroit’s gigantic Uniroyal tire that was once used as a ferris wheel at the World’s Fair, and Sean posted about Mystery Hill, America’s Stonehenge. Car art brings these two together in a weird and wacky kind of way.

Drive along I-40 in Texas heading west from Amarillo (or east if you’re driving from the New Mexico border) and you’ll come across Cadillac Ranch. The first time I saw these 10 Cadillacs sticking up in the air in the middle of a field, their noses buried far enough down so that they’d stay in their upright angle, I was relieved. Actually, I think I felt ecstatic. If you’ve ever driven through this part of Texas, you know just how monotonous the landscape can seem. Flat, flat and more flat. Those cars have been a weird but wonderful visual treat for people traveling that highway ever since Stanley Marsh 3 put them there years ago.

Awhile back, I seem to recall, these cars changed colors with various paint jobs. These days, though, anyone can paint on them. Graffiti is the most common approach. Here is a blog by Alan Mizel who spent time basking in the wackiness of Cadillac Ranch as part of his current trip around the world. There are several photos that pay tribute to this creation.

Next up: Carhenge is more than just Carhenge. There’s the Car Art Reserve

We drove to Carhenge as part of our great American road trip from Ohio to Montana and back four summers ago. When we pulled up, our mouths open like a cliche, we came across a friend of Jim Reinders, the man who conceptualized the project. The friend was collecting the trash and was happy to give us background information about the place.

It was a surprise to see her since Carhenge is a bit outside of Alliance, the closest town. I was impressed to see that this attraction is one that has a method to what some might call madness. Next to this wonderfully weird car creation that was conceived of as a tribute to the artist’s father is a picnic area with tables and a parking lot. This is a regular must-see attraction surrounded by flat land. This outdoor sculpture park seems to say, “What’s your hurry? You might as well stay awhile because, heaven knows, the world is a mysterious place. Take a breather.”

Carhenge, a collection of 38 cars arranged in the manner of Great Britain’s Stonehenge, is only part of the 3-D exhibit set out in the middle of nowhere. The Car Art Reserve is included on the property where the creative spirit runs strong in other car artists’ work as well. One that I remember is “The Fourd Seasons.” Made of Ford cars painted different colors, this sculpture represents wheat growing during the four seasons of Nebraska. Part of the fun of looking at the art is to see what each installation is named.

Artists can still submit sculptures. There’s plenty of room. Carhenge’s Web site contains project history and how to become a part of it.

Here are two other examples of weird car art (of sorts) that I have yet to see.

  • At Wilkin’s Oklahoma Truck Supply south of Tonkawa, there’s an 18-wheeler that is perched on its cab with the truck bed straight up in the air. The truck boasts an advertisement for the business.
  • In Oregon Curiosities, the book’s author describes Yard-0-Fun near Fort Hill, Oregon. Located on Twarp Farm, the yard has a red, white and blue pick-up truck up in a tree. The truck is only one of the weird items on display. Supposedly, you can see the car from the highway between Portland and the coast.

And here’s a car art sculpture that no longer exists but may rise again if someone gets a hankering to reconstruct it.

Near Chicago in Berwyn, Illinois there was a car art shish kabob called “Spindle.” Created by Dustin Shuler, this artwork was made from eight cars skewered onto a pole. If you saw the movie, “Wayne’s World,” you saw this sculpture. Unfortunately, the town voted to get rid of the sculpture a few years ago. The top two cars were saved and stored, however, so someone looking to make Spindle 2 has a head start.

And finally, look for car art moving along U.S. roads and highways. In Columbus, Ohio, for example, several car art artists live here. Greg Phelp’s car with a “That Car” license plate is the one with all the doll parts. Here’s what it looks like in snow.

If you have any car art to share, let Kevin Mc at HubPages know. He’s interested. Thanks to his post on car art, I found out about the car kabob. A commenter of the post clued me into the pick-up truck in the tree.