One of the great things about traveling is the encounters you have with other people. Whether it's exchanging stories with other travelers, gleaning tips from locals, hearing about other people's lives, or telling your own story and hearing the range of reactions, interactions with the people along your trip can be some of the most memorable and awesome experiences.
Today was a pretty good day. I woke up in a campground in Tumalo State Park in Bend, Oregon, and headed up Mt. Bachelor. On the way I picked up a well-drawn cappuccino from Thump and sampled an Ocean Roll, which is apparently a local Sparrow Bakery concoction, kind of a cardamom, sugar, and vanilla croissant. Not what I would describe as lighter fare, but rather tasty. On the recommendation of the lovely hostess at Deschutes Brewery and Public House from the night before and feeling freshly caloried courtesy of the Ocean Roll, I wandered into the Nordic Center for a bit of cross country skiing. I haven't cross country skied in I can't even count how many years, but I picked it right up again. What great exercise, especially in beautiful 50 degree sunny weather. I did a 7 kilometer loop recommended by one of the friendly rental Nordic Center staff (everyone is so friendly out here...my is-she-flirting-with-me-or-just-friendly meters are all out of whack), which was just the right amount of exercise to punctuate my day of travel and exploration.
I had noticed from some searching that there were hot springs on the way to Eugene, so I decided to take the western side of the mountains back to Portland, stopping off at McCredie Hot Springs for a soak. There I found a warm, relaxing pool that happened to be full of loggers, and heard a bit about the interesting field of heli-logging.
One thing to know about the way I travel is that I tend to leave my plans open. This stems in equal measures from a distinct distaste for planning and a desire to leave myself open to seize opportunities as they present themselves. Not knowing where I was going to sleep tonight, I pulled over as soon as I had cell signal to do a bit of last-minute planning and research. As is often the case, I had a couple of things on my mind: what am I going to eat next, and where am I going to sleep? I did a quick Yelp search for nearby restaurants and discovered Lee's Chinese Cuisine, which Yelp helpfully informed me was closing in 18 minutes. Now, as someone who uses Yelp on a daily basis to find a decent coffee shop in a new location or try to maximize the flavor of my journey (to say that I experience the world through my mouth would not be much of an exaggeration), I think I can call myself an expert in assessing places through online research. A lot of times, reviews can be inconclusive, or it can take a lot of time to judge whether people are whiny about service issues, simply lacking in options in their area, or any of a number of other issues that can skew reviews positively or negatively. Occasionally, you can tell almost immediately that a place is special. Something about the tone of the reviews stands out and you can tell that people feel strongly about it. Lee's is one of the places with such a collection of reviews. I glanced over the reviews, thought to myself, "I haven't had good Chinese food in a while...how often does an opportunity for that come up," and raced off to catch them before closing. Boy, did I make the right decision.
This was some of the most enjoyable Chinese food I've had ever, which is saying a lot considering I've been living in NYC for six years. I had the Hunan Triple (the triple is for the combination of beef, chicken, and delicious shrimp...this was one of the "quasi" moments of my quasi-vegetarianism, though they did offer veggie options), which was exactly the right amount of spicy so that you can still taste everything. I also ordered a wonton soup, craving liquid and thinking it would be a refreshing appetizer. The soup was huge, almost enough for a meal on its own, and some of the most flavorful wonton soup I've ever had. What's more, the owners were super friendly. After seeing my travel rig in the parking lot, they asked me about my travels and ended up offering to let me stay the night in their lot behind the restaurant. So here I sit, camped in a little field behind an amazing Chinese restaurant (seriously, if you're in central Oregon, go out of your way to visit this place), well exhausted from a full day of exercise, exploration, and eating, ready for a good night's sleep.
Editorial note: no, this is not meant to be a text-only blog. Photos are coming soon, I promise!