Let’s start this post with a bit of a disclaimer (or two). We took a little trip around Oregon recently which was sponsored by Travel Oregon. They didn’t ask me to write this post but I am doing so because I’m far too excited not to share some of these highlights with you. Disclaimer two: This post is epically long and yet doesn’t begin to cover everything we experienced during that week. You’ll notice in posts to come that Oregon has inspired many new tastes, new ingredients and new recipes. This is only the beginning, albeit a very long beginning – good luck getting through it all. And as always, thanks for being here.



We did it. Five of us in one van making our way across two states – a road trip. Gabe and I have always talked about taking our family on a road trip. We have glamorized life on the road. Visions of roads shaded by towering trees snaking along rivers and canyons. We’d make stops to allow the kids to stretch their legs, take a quick family photo, eat at an unknown place that would forever make it’s mark in our memory for its unexpected charm and delicious food. And then reality would remind us that even one hour in the car with three little ones can leave everyone in tears. We would quickly make some excuse for why it wouldn’t work, the logistics would bog us down and we’d forever be caught in this – “yeah, that’d be nice but it’s never going to happen.”

And then we got a very generous offer to tour Oregon for a week with Travel Oregon. The logistics were worked out, the plan was made and we adjusted our schedules to actually do it. There were still moments of fear – “How would the kids do in the car for that long? Would we enjoy any of it?”

I am thrilled to report that we did it, we loved it and we survived.

The trip had us tasting wine, touring breweries and roaming through orchards. Each place provided a spot for the kids to expend built up energy and I took great joy seeing my kids chasing one another through orchards and picnicking next to trellised rows of plump grapes.

I think my father-in-law says it best – vacations with kids are not for relaxing, they are for building memories. Having those expectations have helped me to really enjoy our family trips and not to be too selfish with my time.

There were plenty of times when I was frustrated with their lack of appreciation and patience. Quite often they were more content to return to the van so they could play their games than listen to someone explain the process of apple to hard cider. And they failed to see the splendor of the enormous,  nearly 100 year old beams that supported the lodge we were staying in – kids these day, geesh. But I was often shaken out of my foul moods by their joy in the simple things – a hotel bed to jump on, a pet fish to care for, a ball partnered with a patch of grass and a cool glass of root beer.

What thrills me the most is that we did it and now my mind is reeling with the possibilities of where to go next.

I’m sharing some of my favorite views of the trip. We’ve been to Oregon countless times but on this particular trip, Oregon stole my heart. Let’s just say when we came home there may have been a few Portland real estate searches (don’t panic Mom, I’m only partially serious).

Blue Mountain Cider Company

Watermill Winery

We arrived in Pendelton on Sunday then woke up bright and early for a quick drive to Milton-Freewater. I sat contentedly staring out the window as the subtle rolling hills practically glowed of gold in the sun. It’s a far cry from the green and trees that I’ve grown accustomed to on my drives.

We were given an extensive tour at the Blue Mountain Cider Company seeing the entire process of apple to hard cider. The kids were thrilled by the apples that accompanied the tour although Ivy was most taken by the cat she found at the orchard.

Petit Noirs

In such a small town I was surprised (and thrilled) to find Petit Noirs. A small, family run shop specializing in handmade chocolates. Each flavor thrilled and many touted the bounty that surrounds the area – Pendelton Whiskey Praline?! Yes.

Be sure to try the Parisian – my favorite with the perfect bit of rose and orange blossom blended with dark chocolate. And don’t go home without a few nougats in your pocket. I’ll report back later on the Cherry Chocolate Merlot Marmelade but for now I will continue to hoard it and take great joy just knowing it sits in my cupboard.

I could have stayed in this space for hours, lingering among the chocolates, nougat, chocolate marmelades and talking with Lan as her passion for the craft was intoxicating.

Hood River was our next stop and the one that had us asking ourselves, “Could we live here?” What’s not to love about a town directly on a river, a crystal clear view of Mt. Hood and countless breweries?

Our favorite stop in Hood River was at the Pfriem Family Brewers. They opened their doors for us warmly and we stayed for hours. We watched Josh (owner and head brewer) craft a fresh batch before we sat with he and his family over a bountiful meal that included plates piled high with various pickles, mussels, frites, and towering onion rings with aioli.

The food and the beers both have Belgium on the mind as Josh is heavily influenced by the country but with his vast experience in brewing, Josh manages to put his own stamp on each of his beers. The beers are rich in flavor with some hinting at cardamom and  deep floral hop flavors that stays true to the Northwest.

Our time at Pfriem showed me the importance of this trip and the great joy and responsibility of telling the stories of those we met along the way. Gabe and I were both blown away by their passion and were inspired by seeing this family taking a leap and making their dreams a reality. They’ve invested thousands of hours into the beer, the food, the space while raising two young children – a task I know is difficult in and of itself. It takes an incredible amount of passion for the craft to do such a thing and I find nothing more inspiring than watching others take so much pride in their work. They have much to be proud of as their beers are among the best I’ve tasted.

All of the people we met on this trip are striving to put their product out into the world – to share a taste, their joy, their lives. With many of our stops I was surprised to find the operations much smaller than I had envisioned. These are few people doing great work with local ingredients crafted expertly. I felt so honored to have met everyone I did and as I said before, it is a joy to be able to tell you all about them.

The Pfriem family touts this message; “Proudly Crafted, Humbly Offered”. Since reading that on the back of my glass while enjoying the Belgian Strong Blonde, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. This is how I want to live – striving to create something with great passion and pride and to be able to humbly share it without seeking the glory for myself but allowing the work to reflect something greater.

I can think of no better way of describing Josh and his family. He spoke with great experience, passion and care about the beer, the food and their newly opened space but he didn’t try to sell us on the beer, he simply served it to us. The beer sold itself.


McCurdy Orchards

Clear Creek Distillery

Mt. Hood Adventure

We left Hood River to head into the mountains. Along the way we made several stops along the Fruit Loop alternating our pit stops between wineries and orchards.

Our first stop was at McCurdy Orchards where they painstakingly grow pears and apples in bottles to be bathed in Pear eau-de-vie and Apple Brandy. Each bottle is carefully slipped onto a young fruit and suspended with twine from branches above and below the bottle. The trees are littered with hanging bottles gleaming in the sun.

By the late afternoon we found ourselves near the top of Mt. Hood and checked into Timberline Lodge – a historic lodge, crafted by artisans in 1938 under the WPA (Works Progress Administration) established by Franklin Roosevelt. Gabe and I marveled at the massive beams supporting this towering lodge and hunted for the many intricate carvings found throughout. Walking around the lodge you can’t help but think about who all has stayed there in ist vibrant history and recall frightening scenes from The Shining as it was here that much of the exterior of that eery movie was filmed (eery is an understatement – I still have nightmares. REDRUM. Let’s move 0n).

The kids were so excited to follow one of the many paths right outside of the lodge. They spotted snow and didn’t want to stop until their little fingers dipped into the icy mash. I led them to snow and was rewarded with an onslaught of snowballs thrown my back. No respect I tell you.

We left the lodge in the morning seeking a bit of an adventure with Greg, our guide. You see, I have this sort of dream that our family would forage together. That we’d spend our weekends camping along the river, wondering through the woods and cooking a feast over a fire with our findings. The thing is that in order to become this sort of family we must do it. We don’t do it. But we tested the waters on this trip as we were led on a bit of a wander through the woods. We saw salmon flipping through the river having just returned from the ocean. We spotted and snacked on Huckleberries and learned Oregon’s state flower produces a deeply purple berry, called an Oregon grape. We snacked on those too along the trail. My vision of our foraging clan just may come to fruition as the kids loved the hike, albeit brief.

From there we made our way to Portland where we were warmly welcomed at Hotel Monaco. The kids were greeted with some new stuffed animal friends and a goldfish to care for while we were there.

I spent the next few days enjoying all the festivities around Feast Portland and drank far too much coffee – Portland, you know good coffee. Also, did I ever tell you about the time I made bitters with Mark Bitterman? More on that soon.

And now you see why we’ve been checking out Oregon real estate.

Thanks so much to Travel Oregon for the great trip and for everyone we met along the way – your stories, your products and your passion has forever made our lives richer. Thank you.



42 Responses to “Travel: Oregon”

  1. Eva

    I am from Oregon originally and reading your post made me realize how little I’ve traveled around the state. So much to see and do! Glad you had such a fun time as a family 🙂

  2. Jocelyn Pascall

    Hey there! I live in Portland and I think I often take it for granted. It is always nice to have someone with fresh eyes remind you of why Oregon is such a great place to live. I am so happy that you had a great trip and I can’t wait to see more of your trip pictures!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Jocelyn – We had to remind ourselves that part of the reason we love Oregon so much is that we are always just visiting when we come. We leave behind stress, laundry piles, dishes and most of our responsibilities that come with the reality of running a home. It is such a wonderful place to visit and thankfully it’s so close.

  3. MG Atwood

    Yep. No matter where I go, how far I travel, there’s no place like home Oregon is totally God’s country, but shhhh we don’t need any more people. Like our former governor used to say, “come and visit”

  4. wmbg

    i can’t stop staring at the picture of the onion rings.

    my husband and i did a 48-hr jaunt to portland last year. we fit in a glorious hike complete with dips under waterfalls, a beer festival, and no less than 6 meals each day. so much goodness in portland, especially during the summer. looking forward to the rest of your pictures!

  5. Dana

    What a fun trip Ashley! You guys are brave and I’m glad it was a success all around. We did not attempt a road trip until the boys were the ages they are now (7 and 5) and then it was only to Walla Walla. You should pat yourself on the back. After being in France with them, we started saying that a trip with your kids is travel, not a vacation.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Dana – It was so inspiring to me to see you take the kids to France. I still want to talk to you about that as it has always been a dream of ours but we’re scared. It is travel – it’s far from relaxing and there are so many desires and expectations you have to let go of.

  6. Tracey

    Sounds like a fun trip! Maybe someday we’ll get to the other coast to experience Oregon. I would definitely look up some of these places!

  7. sara

    “Proudly Crafted, Humbly Offered”- I LOVE that! Really enjoyed reading about your time. Your father in law makes a good point, and I’m glad it allowed you to enjoy the time a bit more. Ivy with the apple…that girl…SO cute.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Sara – Isn’t that beautiful. Such a great motto. Ivy is really missing you. She is still talking about the beach. Looks like a visit to Aunty Sara is in order.

  8. Margherita

    This post is superinteresting. I’ve been to Oregon just once and now want to go back to check all the awesome places I’ve missed!

  9. Winslow

    Hi there- what a wonderful post! As an Oregon native, it’s lovely to read your gushing prose about my home state. I am also friends with the owner of Clear Creek Distillery, creators of that fabulous pear brandy. A slight correction- the owner’s name is Steve McCarthy and the orchard is the McCarthy Orchard, not McCurdy.
    I completely understand wanting to move to Oregon! I miss it myself every day.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Winslow – I met Steve. He is wonderful and so inspiring. It actually was McCurdy Orchards that we went to where they grow the pears and apples in the bottle for the brandy. Such a cool operation.

  10. Dorie Colangelo

    I’m all the way over here in New York but have always wanted to check out Oregon. When I make my way out there one day, I will be sure to visit that tower of crispy onion rings and take home one of those amazing pear in a bottle liquors. Thanks for documenting this beautiful trip.

  11. DeAnn @

    Great post! How wonderful to first take a week long trip but to have it payed for um…AWESOME! I love the picture of your little girl holding the apple. Great balance of words and pictures, I love that you include so many great photos in your posts. I have never been to Oregon, someday I hope! Have a good one!

  12. fabiola@notjustbaked

    I am so happy you wrote this! After being here for a little under two years, I feel there is still so much to see! I will be visiting the Chocolate store one day sooner than later I hope. I do feel the passion here all of the time, in the greater Portland areas, hiding all around. There is a way of life here that I am in love with. Perfect. I am glad you liked it!

  13. Victoria

    What a trip! We relocated to Portland from the Netherlands 9 months ago. Loving it would be an understatement! Oregon is spectacular, and we’ve only discovered a teeny tiny part of it. I’m keeping a list of all the places you visited as they sound wonderful. We were camping at Mnt Hood two weeks ago at Clear Lake – stunning scenery, fresh air and blue skies. You can see a few pics on my blog if you have a moment. Looking forward to hearing more about the places you went.

  14. Jen

    The mussels at Pfriem make my head spin. I am blessed to call Hood River home…and yes…you could absolutely live here. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.) Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  15. Abra Alani

    This is such a wonderful post, Oregon offers so much to see and do, that not many people are even aware of.
    Though, I wouldn’t consider a visit to Oregon complete unless you were able to travel south of Portland, because that’s where you’ll find the majority of the wonderful sights and places that Oregon has to offer.
    There’s Crater Lake National Park, the deepest lake in the U.S; the Oregon Caves; the sea lions on the Oregon coast; the Three Sisters and Mt Bachelor near Bend, the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland; Historic Jacksonville; and the pear orchards and grape vineyards surrounding the Rogue Valley, to name just a few of the things you could see!
    I’m glad you and your family had a good visit to Oregon, it is definitely a great place to live! 🙂

  16. Leonie

    Love this post. Always hoping to do a US road trip but Oregon was never that high up on my wish list… I guess I hadn’t heard that much about it. I’m sold now though!

  17. Tracey@cookingwithloveblog

    I love your writing! This post is beautiful!! The photos are just breath taking. I love it when bloggers post pictures of their trips. Thanks for sharing! Your daughter is such a cutie pie too! 🙂

  18. Denise

    Isn’t Oregon amazing. We drove thru the area three times in the last couple years. Unfortunately, we never really have time to stop and really check it out as there is a project at the end of the trip. But, we do love the drive. I find Oregon so raw and still a bit unexplored. I love the trees, streams and iron bridges that seem to dot the roads all the way up to Washington. We keep saying how we want to do the drive away, but leisurely and without a plan. Being able to take in everything that you were able to experience. And to shoot those gorgeous old bridges. Bend is a must on our list – and had hoped to make it for fall colors. Next year!

  19. Maria

    Loved reading about your trip! It was so fun to see you and meet your adorable family! I think we all need to go back to OR and soon:) xo

  20. Emily | Potter and Butler

    I live in Portland, Oregon and yet this post made me fall in love with it all over again. You hit so many great spots! We just enjoyed Pfreim, Hood River, and the Fruit Loop this weekend. We find ourselves drawn to that area each free weekend we have. Come again soon!

  21. Leigh

    Hi. Last summer my family (my husband, our 3 1/2 year old son, and me) took a trip to oregon. We absolutely fell in love with the state. Our son was a good sport about the adult activities and we were able to do a lot of things just for him. I still think of that trip often. I’ve also been looking at real estate and we live on the east coast. Probably not going to happen, but fun to dream.

  22. Cory

    I made some of that delicious pFriem food. I was one of the two kitchen staff there, besides the kitchen manager/head chef.

  23. Amanda

    Checked in on this post today for a little reference while we’re in Portland! Loved your review. Now we’re thinking about heading to Mt Hood to see the lodge. 🙂

  24. Megan

    I am a little late on this post lol but West Linn, Oregon is my home and I was born and raised 7 miles away in Tualatin. I work at the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association and we work along side Travel Oregon to promote tourism for the state. I LOVE that they arranged such a wonderful trip for you and your family and you did an amazing job capturing each moment of it. I love this state but you have inspired me to go out and meet the people behind some of my favorite local products and see some of the sights that I have never been to. Your post and website is beautiful and hope you come again soon, I would love to meet you!

  25. Sam

    As a former Oregonian, your blog drew me in, but you totally blew it for me when you seemed to see nothing wrong with allowing your children to jump on motel beds.


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