So, where shall we go then?

The Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway

Apart from the sheer beauty of this drive, it is also a sentimental choice. I spent six years living in Gresham, and one of the only ways to entertain yourself was to get in the car and go for a drive in the gorge. Turn up the radio, flip on your headlights, and pile 3 or 4 friends into the car. We’d get out at Multnomah falls and climb up the path in the dark. Or cruise up to Larch Mountain and mount the stairs up to the viewpoint. Crown Point was also a favorite; all lit up at night it is especially romantic.

The road itself is windy and curvy and demands constant attention. One night I was in the car with a fellow who was trying to impress me by taking the curves at a speed I found terrifying rather than exhilarating. He came around one turn so hard that the car fishtailed and the rear end slammed into the cliff face on the passenger side. I was not amused, but I also wasn’t hurt. He did slow down after that.

There are multitude waterfalls, waysides, and scenic spots along this highway. Oneonta gorge requires you to get out of your car and scramble over a giant logjam, but then you are treated to a lovely waterfall tucked far back into the crag. Horsetail is right next to the road, but lovely and worth pausing for.Multnomah falls is certainly lovely, but having seen it more times than I can possibly count, I mainly get out there for the soft serve.

Highway 26 to Cannon Beach and Highway 30 to Portland

I like to take this drive as a loop. Highway 26 west out of town, 101 north through Astoria, and then back along highway 30. Once past Banks, the rolling pastures become a forest replete with Douglas Fir. The trees sometimes grow thickly enough to shade the road almost entirely. This is another windy one, but it’s a broad expanse of road in most cases so doesn’t feel quite as treacherous.

Once you reach the coast you head north on 101 and get to see a fair example of what coastal towns in Oregon can look like. Cannon Beach has more of a village feel. Its shops and restaurants are cozy and quaint and just slightly more sophisticated than some of the other options. Seaside is bustling, but feels like what it is; a tourist town with a rather depressed economy. Astoria has managed to retain much of its vintage charm. Many of the houses are intact perched there on the cliffside. After you’ve been that long in the car it’s nice to get out and climb the 164 steps to the catwalk of the Astoria Column. The vantage on a clear day is stunning. You see the confluence of the Columbia river and Pacific. Looking south Saddle Mountain is prominent, and north you can spot Cape Disappointment on the Washington shore.

If you’re hungry by this time I cannot recommend Fulio’s strongly enough. It is a tiny and intimate Italian bistro right in the midst of downtown Astoria. Every meal I have had there has been phenomenal and both the atmosphere and service are excellent.

Heading north out of Astoria sets your wheels on highway 30. Winding around Oregon’s thumb, the highway leads back to Portland via Ranier, St. Helens, and Scappoose. It also passes the old site of Trojan. The cooling tower is no longer in place, but I always giggle at the notion that Mr Burns might be lurking up in one of the still extant office buildings.

Skyline Boulevard to Germantown Road

For a shorter jaunt, I like to head up Burnside and swing around onto Skyline. This is definitely a windy drive, and not for the inattentive or those prone to motion sickness. The two lane road wends its way across the summit of the west hills. There are beautiful views to the west and down into the Tualatin valley. There are houses grand and humble all perched on the slopes on either side. Most of the best real estate is taken up by the several cemeteries along the way, which are undeniably lovely, but I feel like the view is wasted on dead people.

This route is also a favorite destination for bike riders so caution is crucial when coming around corners. It is all too easy to take a curve too quickly and suddenly find yourself bearing down on a cyclist. Many drivers tend to be altogether too cavalier about this possibility, and I have seen more near misses than i care to think about.

The Skyline Tavern is along this stretch of road, and I am sorry to say, it doesn’t come close to living up to it’s potential. The building is of old weathered clapboard and looks like a rustic cabin from the street. Inside however, it’s pretty much just a typical dive. It’s unfortunate, because with their location, I feel they could do something really amazing. Some decent food would go a long way toward remedying the situation, but they meet OLCC guidelines for serving edibles by stocking microwave corndogs and bags of Fritos. There is a horseshoe pitch in the back as well as a ping-pong table and a fire pit. I would TOTALLY hang out there if they just put a little more effort into offering some kind of snackables that were even remotely palatable.

Skyline stretches all the way out to Scappoose where it intersects with highway 30, but I rarely go all the way out that far. Typically, I like to turn right at Germantown and follow it down through the canopy of trees. There are several places to pull off and gain entrance to Forest Park from this end, and it’s usually less crowded for a hike than some of the portions closer in to downtown. When you wend your way down off of the hilltop, you are treated to a view of the St John’s bridge.

Of course, there are lots of other drives in the area I love to take, and I am especially fond of road trips, but these are the drives I most frequently take; the ones that cure my restlessness, satisfy my desire to be on the go, and give me the chance to feel the pull of gravity in my body when I take those turns just a little faster than I ought.