Friday, May 19, 2017

Salem, Oregon and Scary Haircuts

Denisa will tell you that she enjoys almost everything about this full-time traveling lifestyle. She loves living in new places, seeing beautiful landscapes, learning about new cultures, attending different churches, hiking in lovely new areas every day . . . But her least favorite part of being in new locations is trying to find a place to get a haircut. It's a scary thing to walk into a new place and trust your hair to a complete stranger. Today's haircut was even scarier than usual.

She found out that a fellow full-timer gets her hair cut at beauty schools. It's quite a bargain, and there is a seasoned professional teacher on duty to correct any mistakes. That sounds like a good idea, until you are actually sitting in the chair with a nervous student holding scissors at the College of Hair Design. Denisa's student had been in the program for eight months, but we're not sure that she had ever seen anyone with hair as thick as Denisa's. It took an hour and a half, and three visits from the teacher, but we can say that Denisa now has shorter hair. That's all we're saying. (Mark also got a haircut, but he is braver and has less hair. His haircut only took twenty minutes. That's all we're saying.)

It's a rainy Oregon day, so we are looking for indoor things to do on our day in Salem. We had a break in the rain to explore the River Front park. On a clearer day we would have ridden our bikes over this pedestrian/bike bridge that connects several city parks.

A popular stop at the River Front park is the indoor carousel. Denisa is a fan of merry-go-rounds, so she bought a ticket for a ride. This carousel features hand-carved animals that were made by Salem volunteers. While most carousels are older than we are, this one has just celebrated its tenth birthday.

Our main reason for a trip to Salem was to visit another state capitol. After visiting many ornate Romanesque capitols, this is a plainer art deco design inside and out. Its shining gold pioneer on top can be visited on a dry summer day. But the rain we are enjoying today will make that metal spiral staircase to the top off limits.

The dome in the center of the atrium supports that golden pioneer. From the inside, it's an interesting combination of green and pink.

This is one of the plainest of the many state capitols we have toured. It's main ornamentation are the larger-than-life murals in the atrium the depict important happenings in Oregon history. This mural includes one of the first groups that wandered through this beautiful state--Lewis and Clark.

We have found that we always learn and enjoy a guided state capitol tour more than just wandering through the building on our own. So we waited for the afternoon tour, where we were joined by the home-school group that was giving out apple pies to their local legislators. Our volunteer guide took us to both houses of the legislation, and explained that they are still decorated just as they were designed in 1938 when the building was built.

It was still raining when we finished the tour, and we had a deadline to make. A week ago when we were standing on the beach whale-watching, Denisa struck up a conversation with a woman from Salem. We're always asking for travel advice, and she insisted that we should eat at a little bistro called "Word of Mouth." She told us we might have to wait an hour or two for a table, but the Creme Brulee' French Toast was definitely worth it. When we found out they closed at 3:00, we knew we would have to hurry to get there in time. Should we run a half-mile through the rain to our car and then drive to the bistro, or just run the half-mile in the opposite direction to Word of Mouth Bistro? We opted for the run to the restaurant and arrived with our rain coats soaking.

It was thirty minutes before closing, so we only had a 20 minute wait for chairs at the bar. But that extra time helped us to decide on sharing their half-pound hamburger. We don't often take pictures of our food, but we wanted to show that this well-decorated burger will dislocate your jaw on that first bite.

But the main reason we write about our meal is what happened before and after our food arrived. We were waiting patiently for our burger when this "Random Act of Yum-ness" arrived at our table. Even though it had been recommended, we decided not to order breakfast this afternoon. How did they know how badly Denisa wanted to try the creme brulee' french toast? We will always remember this random act that made waiting for our burger so much yummier! The menu's description of this treat reads, "French toast with a creamy vanilla custard center and caramelized sugar top."

Our friend on the beach had told us that Word of Mouth Bistro had been contacted by the Food Channel's "Diners Drive-ins and Dives" to be featured on their show. But they declined the offer because they are already too busy. More notoriety would make their lines too long for the community they love to serve. So they gave their local fans the best random act of yum-ness by choosing to stay small. We watched the rain continue to fall as we finished our meal. When Denisa mentioned that we had ran through the rain to get here, one of the waitresses brought us an umbrella for our trip back to the car. She explained that they have a big collection of umbrellas that customers have left, and they give them away on rainy days.

In our mile-long walk back to the car on the other side of the state capitol, Denisa can report that she stayed nicely dry under her new umbrella. So we were blessed twice during our visit. We just wanted to mention their great service as their bistro continues to grow through "word of mouth." All the rain has given us a nice rainbow display over the green grass fields as we head back to our campground. It's been a great time in Willamette Valley, but it's time to head down the road to find the end of even more rainbows.

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