Before I start my new job I have been taking the opportunity to do some cool stuff when I am not putting my apartment together. On Thursday I had an opportunity to do some four wheeling with Bobby in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. He and a buddy are doing a memorial hike Saturday and wanted to run up the trail in their trucks to make sure it was clear. If any maintenance needed to be done they wanted to do it Thursday and not on Saturday with a bunch of people in their cars. Some of the hikers were starting at the bottom of the trail but others were going to be ferried to the top in Bobby’s truck. With nothing else to do I tagged along for the ride.
First time this far north in Washington and it was something else. It took about an hour to get to the trail head and then what seemed like thirty minutes to the top of the road. Bobby kept saying I could get my car up it but at a certain point you really needed four wheel drive. I haven’t been wheeling in years and it was fun. Let me tell you I utilized the oh shit bar often, trying not to bump my head.
Once at the top we putzed around for a few minutes and did part of the hike to get a better view. The weather was really good and from the parking lot we could see the top of Mount St. Helens. We went further up the trail and eventually we could see Mount St. Helens, Mount Baker, and Mount Adams which was really cool. None of us were ready to finish the hike but it was great getting out before the weather turns real crappy.
Late in fall bands tend to announce their winter tour schedule. Winter is a good time to see some kick ass bands in small indoor venues. When Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe posted their winter tour they had a tone of dates on the west coast, including a stop in Portland on a Friday. Checking my calendar this was a perfect opportunity to see a show and spend the weekend with the family in Vancouver. I remember booking my flight for this trip while driving down to Asheville to see The New Mastersounds and drink some awesome beer.
While I realize my time was short with the family I certainly made the most of that limited time. It took a lot longer to get to PDX then I wanted. My flight to SFO wasn’t a problem, other than being six hours, it was the connection to PDX that got delayed. The show didn’t start till 9 so there was still plenty of time to see the family and catch the start of the show even with my flight delay. Our plans for Friday kept evolving as my flight status was updated but we managed to make it to Associated. Some really good brick oven pizza and surprisingly tacos as well. The crust was crispy and the flavor combos very unique. After this Bobby dropped Tracy and I off at the Aladdin Theater for the show.
The Aladdin Theater is old, no way around it. Rather small and hasn’t been updated in many many years. The venue certainly shows its age at this point. Late in the show Karl even made a comment about the venue. They took a bunch of promo photos and he didn’t seem particularly happy with the theater as the backdrop. I believe he said they were “to cheap” about finding a more appropriate photo location. I would agree with all the reviews in that the seats suck. When we got in we immediately headed to the small bar to the left which was nuts to butts. The show hadn’t even started and the bar was crowed. Tracy muscled her way to the bar and got a drink while I chatted with some fellow patrons. We eventually grabbed a seat down front and waited for the show to start.
The Main Squeeze was the opening act and I honestly didn’t have much hope for them. I know you shouldn’t go in with preconceived ideas but still. When they finished I was totally a fan. They had a good selection of songs and really got the place going. They were in the same vain as KDTU so it really fit the night in term of energy. Eventually KDTU took the stage and I was shocked to see Alan Evans on drums. I just saw him less then a month ago playing with The New Mastersounds. It was so cool seeing him playing with Karl. It is usually Karl that is always sitting in with other bands so it was nice seeing Alan sitting in with Karl for a change. One thing that we quickly noticed was the band was all very dapper. Everyone was in a suite and honestly I don’t know how they did it. It was just to damn hot to be sweating in a three piece on stage all while performing. KDTU was on fire that night and really had a groove going. Its been years since I have seen KDTU and I was disappointed at all. I have kept up with Karl’s many other side projects but there is just something about seeing his band that is so satisfying. His 2002 album The Bridge is still one of my all time favorite albums. What a great performance.
Saturday thankfully was a full day with the family which was exactly what I wanted. It was a lazy morning with everyone sleeping in but slowly the house awoke and was a hive of activity. Bobby got some work done, Tracy good some breakfast and the kids and I watched the new Ghostbusters. A true highlight of the trip was sitting at the breakfast table that morning eating with the family. I remember at one point just starring at the kids. I have been lucky to see them grow up and cant wait to see who they are as adults.
After a hearty breakfast we started the days activities. Fist up was Powell’s Books which is the largest independent book store. They say it is an entire city block but not really. Even without being a full city block the sheer size of the place is impressive and worth a visit. While not much of a book worm I found some good station and the rare book collection was cool to see. I have never seen one of these in any book stores so it was cool seeing some books that are well over 100 years old. They even have a printing machine to print any book you want to create and for on demand printing for independent authors.
After this Tracy and I started a brewery tour of Vancouver. They knew I was coming out before Christmas so this was my gift from them to me which was cool. Fist stop and what ended up the best in my opinion, was Loowit Brewing Company. They are a small shop in the old section of Vancouver. Not an extremely deep selection but some real quality stuff including several GABF award winners. I particularly liked their Tiger Squadron Pale Ale.
Next up was Old Ivy Brewery. This place really reminded me of Cheers or something from the 80’s. The place was pretty dead, granted it was around 3pm but it was a Saturday. We only stayed for one beer here before moving on. We thought about some food but the next place had much better food Tracy said. There are a lot of breweries in the area, especially Portland. Just skip this one and move on to something else.
Last stop of the night was Heathen Brewing Feral Public House which is the brewpub for Heathen. Washington alcohol laws are different from Virginia but what I gather this means is kids are allowed in the place during all business hours. Here the place was hoping in the early evening hours. We bellied up to the bar and started right in with several apps and a few beers. With all the choices I was tempted to do a sampler but stuck to my guns on avoiding them and got a full glass of Kunkle’s Dunkle. Maybe it was the weather but I have been drinking more porters, stouts, dunkles, anything really dark the last few months. The apps we got where also very good.
And just like that it was time to head back to the house for dinner. Tracy was doing a brisket in the crock pot for tacos which was awesome! She did a really good job with the meat and all the fixing. I stuffed my face full. From all the drinking that afternoon I had a slight buzz and was starving. The appetizers from Heathen where good but this really hit the stop. After dinner Bobby and I spent some time in the garage catching up. When you get him alone and really sit down with him, he is really kind thoughtful and has some good insight on life. With the kids to bed it was time for some adult fun with Bobby this time.
He and I headed out to play some classic arcade games. We first tried Ground Kontrol but as we pulled up there was a line out the door waiting to get in. The weather was cold and drizzly, we were not about to wait in a line to play some video games. Google to the rescue we found QuarterWorld across town. Unfortunately there was a small cover to get in but totally worth it. We played classics like Joust, Fix-It Felix Jr., Space Invaders, TMNT, and Galaga to name but a few of the offerings. Oh and did I mention pinball up the wazoo. We played so much we actually closed the place down at 1am. After a long night of gaming you work up an appetite so we headed down the block to Zack’s Shack for some awesome hotdogs. They actually don’t close till 3am on the weekend so it worked out perfectly before heading back to the house.
The next morning came way to early. Three nights straight of non-stop activity was finally starting to catch up to me. The kids had a church function they couldn’t miss so Bobby took the kids and Tracy dropped me off. My flight left PDX at 1:30pm unfortunately with a 6 hour layover in SFO. When I booked my ticket I didn’t realize I would be flying during the Super Bowl. Thankfully I landed with plenty of time before the start and enough after to enjoy the entire game in the United Lounge. While the audio was hard to hear it was easy to follow the action. At the half I really thought Atlanta was going to have a blow out so to see the Patriots come back and win it was pretty amazing. I am not a football fan by any means but that was a great game to watch.
My free ticket almost wasn’t worth it. My flight didn’t leave SFO till 9:30 or something like that. I arrived early actually just before 6am. A quick Uber ride home and I actually had time for a quick nap before getting ready for work. I was surprisingly awake all day despite my whirlwind weekend on the west coast.
I think in the future I will take more of this shorter style of vacation. It saves on vacation time and costs less. This will allow me to visit more places and see more things then if I stayed a week in one or two places. The hardest part of the trip was not being able to spend more time with the family. I think keeping it busy with everyone and doing individual things was a good way to do it. I hope to go back sooner rather then later and of course Bobby and Tracy encouraged me to stay longer next time.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Friday, February 3rd 2017
Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR