All photos are now clickable.
This is view from our hotel balcony.
Additional info: Our total trip will take 3 weeks. During this time we will travel close to 5000 miles. Our stops are: Ashland, OR - Newpork, OR - Portland, OR - Hood River, OR - Seattle, WA - Vancouver, BC - Kamloops, BC - Jasper, AB - Banff, AB - Cranbrook, BC - Missoula, MT - Challis, ID - Boise, ID - Reno, NV - South Lake Tahoe, CA. In addition there will be a lot of side trips.
Day 1: We left house around 10 am - a bit later than planned. However, there was still enough time left to enjoy our drive. We stopped in Sacramento to visit our very talented artist friends – Pavel and Natalia Tikhomirov and saw some of their new creations:
We always enjoy driving through beautiful Central Valley with its orchards and vineyards so this time again we took Hwy 99 instead of faster but more boring Hwy 5. We made short stop in Chico. One thing we realized during this trip was how bad California’s drought was. Shasta Lake water level was so scarily low that in some areas where water used to be people were driving cars. Mount Shasta had very little snow. Rivers’ level was much lower that we used to see at this time of the year.
When we arrived to Ashland the first thing we dis was making reservation in our favorite restaurant - the Alchemy. Then we checked in our hotel and went back for dinner.
We went to this restaurant our first evening at Ashland since we thought that they are closed on Mondays. Initially we were planning to get just a couple of appetizers and a bottle of nice local Rose wine since we were not very hungry. However, the appetizers did not appeal to Alex so we ended up ordering the entrées and soup. Soup of a day was Cream of Tomato and Leeks – very-very good and original. The smoothness of the soup was greatly complimented by the crunchiness of chopped fennel garnish. I liked it so much that asked our waitress for the list of ingredients which she got for me together with some instructions. I will be definitely trying to reproduce it when we get back home. Alex ordered Seared Salmon (seared alaskan king salmon, dill potato puree, grilled artichoke relish, nicoise olive dust, fennel frond). It had perfectly crispy skin but was deliciously moist and tender inside – as perfect as it can be. I had Stuffed Quail (debonned quail stuffed with rabbit sausage wrapped black mission fig, purple haze goat cheese polenta, fig marsala reduction, grilled asparagus, pea tendrils). It was very tasty and tender. We also had a bottle of local Rose wine which was pretty good.
To jump ahead, the restaurant was so good this year that we decided to go there again next day since they were no longer closed on Mondays.
Their chef was 26 year old local culinary genius who created his recipes based on his inspiration and some internet research using as many local ingredients as possible.
Next day we were equally impressed. Alex ordered quail and I ordered Braised Beef Short Rib
(tied beef short rib, port bbq sauce, yukon gold potato and carrot puree, crispy shallots, rogue creamery smokey bleu cheese, bacon jam). The rib was super tender and absolutely delicious. Sides were perfect and very creative. Even Alex who hates ribs loved it. We also had their soup. This time it was beluga lentils soup – very different from yesterday but equally great. And of cause again I got the recipe!
We even ordered a dessert this time - Layered Chocolate Cake (Layers of chocolate sponge cake and chocolate mousse, wrapped in a chocolate ganache shell Served with pecan brittle, salted caramel, orange marmalade gelatin and whipped cream). In spite of our waitress’ passionate recommendation I was somewhat hesitant since we are not big fans of sweets especially chocolate cake. Little did I know! Dessert was just as outstanding as all other creations of their wonderful chef. It had interesting combination of flavors and textures and was made from barely sweet dark chocolate. At the end of our diner chef Billy came to our table. He was indeed very young and modest fellow who was almost uncomfortable with our violent praising of his masterpieces. I believe that this young man has great future ahead of him due to his talent and open mind.
We started day 2 by visiting Butte Creek Mill in Eagle Point where we bought in their very old-fashion store their wonderful pancake mix for us, family and friend. In their small antique store next to the mill they had real buffalo head! Then we drove through the Applegate Valley, stopped in lovely little town Jacksonville and walked around. Later we spend couple of hours walking around Ashland and their beautiful Lithia Park. This was not the best time of the year for the park since nothing was in bloom but it was still lovely. As I wrote earlier, we spent our second evening in the same outstanding restaurant.
We spent day 3 driving north, then west toward beautiful Oregon Coast and then along the coast to our today destination – Newport. Drive along Hwy’s 138 and then 38 toward the ocean was very scenic – majestic forest, meadows with wild flowers and cattle, picturesque farms with Umpqua River following us most of the time. We also saw large herd of elk that was pretty close to the road.
Oregon Coast is in my opinion one of the most beautiful places on earth. We drive through it practically every year for way over 10 years and never get enough of it. Ocean views are simply breathtaking. Every turn of the road offers new vistas. I am so happy that we have another day tomorrow driving along the Oregon Coast! There is also a lot of little lakes; many of them covered with water lilies.
One observation – we always drove through Oregon Coast on our way back to California. This is our first time driving in north direction. And while it is still very enjoyable drive it is less exiting that driving in southern direction. When you are driving south, ocean is on your right side so you can easily pull over to every vista point you drive by. Unfortunately, when you are driving north, you have to cross the opposite traffic lane which is prohibited in many vista places so your options for enjoying the ocean views and taking photos are more limited.
To be continued...