Columbia River Maritime Museum

Ships ahoy!

The Columbia River Maritime Museum located on the waterfront in Astoria OR has the largest collection of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts in the country. The exterior is amazing architecturally which makes it very inviting.

After paying my $14 admission fee I begin my journey. The museum is a privately funded nonprofit museum so I don’t think twice in handing over my money to help their cause and keep the good work going.

A large, once used Lighthouse Fresnel Lens greets you as you walk in.

A map spotting where vessels have been lost in these treacherous waters where the Columbian River meets the Atlantic Ocean. This area is known as The Graveyard of the Pacific. In the past 200 years there have been as many as 2,000 ships sunk and over 700 lives claimed by this area.

Full size fishing boats from different eras are laid out for you to see.

This region is dependent on the fishing industry and reading some of the stories and tales here at the museum are very interesting.

A Coast Guard Boat mockup depicting the rescue of a fisherman in high seas.

Standing next to this boat and seeing the angle is amazing. First thing I noticed is the captain is buckled into his seat and has no less than 4 tie downs fixing him to the boat itself.

Maritime artifacts.

The Sextant. A tool that maritimers entrusted theirs lives in. I had always wondered how these worked and how they were used. The museum has a neat interactive booth that teaches you how these Sextants work and how to use them. I had the most fun with that!

Salmon labels from various fisheries around the area.

Price of admission also allows you to venture onto and explore the Lightship The Columbia. This ship was a floating lighthouse that was stationed about 5 miles off the coast to help vessels identify where the mouth of the Columbia River was. It served from 1951 to 1979 and was added to the museum in 1980.

Port Arena Lighthouse

Forever Young…

I was driving up Hwy 1 in California north of San Francisco and I noticed a sign on the side of the road that read “Lighthouse” with an arrow pointing towards the coast. I pulled over, turned around and drove down the road towards the Port Arena Lighthouse.

The museum and lighthouse didn’t open until 10:00 am and I got there at about 9:15 am so that gave me some time to shoot some photos along the coast line. Perfect lighting this early in the morning.

It was pretty windy and CHILLY out there even in May! Burrr…. I walked around and shot a few more photos of this awesome landscape. A quick Google search mentioned that this lighthouse was used as part of the filming in the Mel Gibson movie Forever Young. Neat! I enjoy visitin filming locations! Win-win.

Once the gates opened I drove up to the point and made my way into the museum in order to take the tour.

I walked into the museum, I happily paid my $7.50 tour fee which I thought was rather cheap for such a place. I was expecting $10-$15 just to help offset the costs of the landmark as well as to help fund the maintenance and restoration of this awesome piece of history.

The Port Arena Lighthouse sits 115′ tall and I get to climb to the top!

After 145 steps later I was a little winded and sore. lol. The spiral staircase is awesome and I learned that the original staircase was a polished brass and was later painted grey by the coast guard once they took over. Bummer, I bet this thing was a sight to see all polished and shiny.

This particular lighthouse has had the large lamp removed and placed inside the museum for viewing. This gives us the visitors a nice open platform to get a nice 360 degree panoramic view of the shoreline.

The 10ft tall lamp was replaced by a LED housing which measures about 12″ tall that sits just outside the glass housing.

Spectacular views! Man am I glad I got to stop by and check this place out. It was definitely and unexpected stop but I’m so glad I got to visit.

A guide at the top of the lighthouse gives a short presentation about the history and features of the lighthouse. The guide at the time wasn’t the most engaging guide I’ve listened to but the information given was thorough and informative.

Platforms and benches every so often help those out of shape visitors like myself take a breather. Hehe.

Steps dated 1869. Wow. This was the first thing I saw that made me realize this building was well over 145 years old which ironically is how many steps I had to climb to the top. The age of this structure finally sinks in.

As I mentioned earlier this lighthouse was part of the filming in the 1992 movie named Forever Young. Copies of newspaper clippings from 1992 are framed in the museum showing some behind the scene photos. I remember seeing the movie and after visiting the Port Arena Lighthouse I plan to watch it again soon.

If you’re planning a visit I would definitely recommend visiting in the early hours of the morning as I did in order to catch the best light for photographs. Evening light would also be nice but most of what you’ll be shooting may be in the shadows.


A taste of Philly in Portland!

I have to admit I very rarely try a Philly Cheesesteak outside of Philadelphia but I made an exception this time. I stumbled across Steakadelphia in Portland, OR and decided to stop in. The place was pretty busy with a wide range of people having lunch, very diverse indeed. That’s a common thread I’ve noticed amongst good eateries, lots of different types of people visiting a location is a key indicator of how good the food is.

I ordered the 12″ Cheez Whiz Philly which is Cheese Whiz, onions and Steakadelphia sauce. This is the closest I can get to the “Whiz Wit” I usually order back in Philadelphia. Don’t let the basic appearance fool you. This Philly is some good stuff. I was a little apprehensive trying a cheesesteak in Portland but the first bite in I felt like I was back in South Philly! This is the closest I’ve had to a genuine cheesesteak from Philly and here I am 3,000 miles away! Score!

Lesa usually doesn’t do cheesesteaks since she doesn’t eat red meat so we were pleased when we noticed Steakadelphia offered a chicken based sandwich as well. She couldn’t stop raving about the sandwich so this place was a winner. Usually when going to a cheesesteak joint there’s only red meat on the menu so it was a good change of pace to see chicken being offered as well. Well done Steakadelphia!

One tip. Don’t order 2 sides of fries. They give a hefty portion and one order is plenty for two people. Ask me how I know. lol.

If you visit Steakadelphia their parking is a little weird. There’s a small lot behind the building you can park in but it’s shared with other building tenants so pickings may be slim during peak hours. Street parking will be a likely option.

The Bowpicker

Best Fish & Chips!

I ran into some locals while visiting Cannon Beach Oregon and once they heard I was on my way to Astoria they promptly recommended I visit The Bowpicker for lunch. I asked where it was and their reply was “Just keep driving down the main drag from downtown and look for the boat on your right”. It wasn’t the boat I noticed first, it was the long line of people! Guess I’m in the right place.

We jumped in line and heard many different accents and pieces of various conversations that clued us in that everyone here were not local. They were from all parts visiting the same place we were told to check out. So it’s obvious that this place is something special. Now we have to wait and see.

The smallest menu ever. The Bowpicker is a fish and chips joint only. There are no other options for you to mull over. It’s easy. Either you want a Full Order (5 Pieces) or a Half Order (3 Pieces). Both come with fries and I’d suggest after waiting in line for about an hour that you choose the Full Order just in case. Don’t want to finish the Half Order and wish you had more.

As I got closer to the counter the line got even longer… Tons of people!

The term “Bowpicker” is a type of fishing boat used on the Columbian River here in the Pacific Northwest. The same boat that the eatery is built within.

I love the sign noting the hours. “11ish to 6” and then the…. “Unless we run out of fish…” Ha!

One major thing worth mentioning is that The Bowpicker does not accept credit cards. This is a Cash Only eatery. So bring cash, I don’t want you to have to wait in line for an hour just to find out at the counter that your credit card is not accepted. That would not be good.

Finally! We made it to the front of the line. The eatery is a small operation, one person taking orders and one frying the fish up. Nothing fancy yet they pull in some huge crowds.

The only downsides to The Bowpicker is their lack of a parking lot so you’ll have to scrounge for street parking on a busy day. Still not a deal breaker, not ideal but not a big deal. The parking lot next to the boat is reserved just for the Coast Guard so there is no parking available there. You will be towed if you park there. The second downside is they only have 2 picnic tables to sit and eat at. Also… not a deal breaker. The turn over was pretty quick and it wasn’t long before a couple of spots opened up. Use this opportunity to make some new friends and chat.

Today’s fish and chips plate was a mix of Albacore Tuna and Snapper. The breading wasn’t overdone, meaning it wasn’t so thick that you taste more breading than fish. It was the perfect amount.

Now I realize what all the fuss was about. Waiting an hour in line for 5 pieces of fish, was it worth it? Yes. Yes it was! If you’re in the Astoria Oregon area anytime definitely plan to stop by The Bowpicker for lunch, you won’t be disappointed. My advice, get there early before they run out!

Snappy’s Cafe & Grill

The city of Katy, Texas is home to one of the best places to get a great meal and see a familiar hometown face, a cafe and grill named Snappy’s.

On a typical weekend you will see the crowds hit this eatery as mid-morning hunger strikes the residents of Katy, TX. The lines begin to form, but the over 14 years of experience that the Snappy’s crew has makes quick work of getting you seated for your meal.

Bring your appetite and do not hold back on trying some of the favorites like the “Snappy’s Super Omelette” or my personal favorite “Country Deuces”. Want to know whats in it? You will just need to visit!!

Everything is made fresh and from personal experience I can tell you that the daily lunch specials are what food comas are made of!! Hint: Tuesday lunch special is Beef Tips with 3 sides and cornbread.

I have been visiting Snappys for a few years now and I love to take the family because the food always puts a smile on their faces. I also like to go to Snappy’s during the week when the wife does not see me eating the heart healthy “Country Deuces” haha, #YouOnlyLiveOnce, #biscuits&gravy.

I was a bit leary about sharing this gem as I know it only leads to others filling the tables, but the big difference about Snappy’s is that home town feeling you get so the more the merrier!!

Hyman’s Seafood Co.

Mmmm Seafood!

Taking a walk in historic Charleston SC can leave one pretty hungry and being this close to the coast I had to have some seafood for lunch. I came across Hyman’s Seafood Co. on Meeting St and apparently this specific location has been a Hyman establishment since 1890. Wow.

It was originally a Dry Goods Store but later became a restaurant in 1987, so even at that they’ve been in the restaurant business for nearly 30 years. One tell tale sign that you’re in the South is having Complimentary Boiled Peanuts on the menu. I’m not a fan of boiled peanuts but I know plenty of people that grew up in the deep South that just love them. So much in fact that they’ll have them shipped back to Texas from their favorite hot spots thoughout the South.

I chose to go with the Charleston Lump Crab Cake Sandwich which sounded really good.

Hyman’s has two sides of the restaurant. They have the main sit down dining area under the name Hyman’s Seafood Co. and then they have a bar area named Hyman’s Half Shell. I opted to dine in the Half Shell portion of the restaurant as it’s much more casual and offered seating at their full bar.

The building itself is a treat to see. Hard to imagine how much history these walls have witnessed and heard over the 100+ years it’s stood here.

I was delighted once my food arrived but I was quickly bummed out. I was looking forward to having my sandwich on a Kaiser Roll as the menu stated but instead I got a generic, run of the mill , grocery store style hamburger bun. Not cool. Guess they were all out of Kaiser Rolls.

The crab cakes were a great size and they were packed with lump crab meat. They certainly don’t skimp on the carb meat portions which is a great thing for us consumers! Still bummed about the missing Kaiser Roll so I ended up eating the lump crab cakes individually without the bun. The onion rings and hushpuppies were also very good, I love me some good ole fashioned home made hushpuppies and these left me wanting more.

So if you’re in Charleston SC and have a craving for some Crab Cakes give Hyman’s Seafood Co. a try. If you choose the same sandwich I did hopefully they’lll have some Kaiser Rolls on hand.

Charleston South Carolina

History Galore!

Charleston South Carolina is one of the southern cities I’ve had on my list of places to visit for quite some time. Let me just say that it almost didn’t get scratched off my list since it took me well over an hour to find a place to park the van I was driving. There were plenty of parking garages but none that could accomodate a tall vehicle. After searching I finally found an open air parking lot near the Historic City Market.

Churches and their graveyards seem to have just jumped out at me while I strolled through the streets of Charleston. I love talking a walk through these on site cemeteries and reading the names and the dates in which they passed. Tons of history in this city.

The Confederate Museum located right at the beginning of the City Market seemed like a good place to visit but all of the “No Photography” signs spread out in the lobby turned me off. I decided to skip the tour and continue walking.

Horse drawn carriage tours.

Another Church…

A rose made out of a Palmetto Leaf laid upon a head stone.

Graveyards everywhere… very erie and interesting to say the least. I would love to have stayed the night here in Charleston in order to take a Ghost Tour but time didn’t allow for it.

Maybe the next time I visit I’ll be able to spend more time here in Charleston. Just a few hours was not nearly enough time.

Mellow Mushroom

Looking for a Slice!

The Mellow Mushroom was originally established in Atlanta, GA in 1974 but have since branched out with locations throughout the south. I stumbled across the restaurant while wandering around Asheville NC and thought it would be a good place to take a break and grab some lunch.

The restaurant is definitely bigger on the inside than I would have thought. I’m more of a patio seating kinda guy so I opted for a table outside so I could enjoy the Spring weather.

This is more like it. Definitely more my speed. Very laid back and relaxing.

I chose to go with the 10″ Mighty Meaty Pizza. It’s a red sauce base pizza with Mozzarella, Pepperoni, Sausage, Ground Beef, Ham, and Applewood Smoked Bacon. Yum! I’m not much a fan of the Chicago style pizza but I can appreciate a good New York Style Pizza! This pizza was very hearty, very tasting. Definitely better than any of the big generic name chain pizzerias out side and pretty high up on my list of great pizza.

You ever get that feeling that you’re being watched?

The Mellow Mushroom is very eclectic to say the least. It has a good, fun, quirky vibe to it. Great place to meet friends for drinks and some grub. Being located in the heart of downtown Asheville is nice since it’s so close to everything.

Uncle Larry’s Restaurant

I just got smacked!

Let me just say I love fried catfish… At times I’ll be on the road traveling and get a crazy craving for it. I’ll look for local restaurants that specialize in fried catfish and often times I’ve been very disappointed. Well.. when I heard about Uncle Larry’s Restaurant in Chattanooga TN I knew I had to give them a try.

The first thing I noticed once I stepped into Uncle Larry’s was how friendly the staff were. They welcomed me in and showed me to an open table. I certainly didn’t get the typical restaurant vibe… I got a vibe that was more along the lines of stepping into a friend’s house to have lunch. Very warm and welcoming. A great change of pace for sure.

Their menu contained a few various types of fish but I knew what I wanted before I even got here. Fried Catfish.

Uncle Larry’s has gotten some notoriety and you can clearly see that by the US Map they have mounted on the wall. Each pin locates a place where their visitors have came from in order to break bread at Uncle Larry’s Restaurant. You can see they’re not just a local favorite anymore… their reach is well beyond these city limits.

I ordered the 2 piece Fried Catfish which came with 2 sides. I chose French Fries and Fried Okra. Fried Hushpuppies rounded out the Fried Lunch Quadfecta! There are no fancy plates or silverware here, everything is disposable stryofoam products so it’s obvious they let their food do the talking, not their presentation.

The fried catfish I must say is some of the best tasting catfish I’ve had, they must have put some sort of fairy dust into their home made hushpuppies and okra since they were equally as addicting! I’m glad I found out about Uncle Larry’s and got a chance to stop in and have lunch.

After a few bites of my fish my lovely waitress stopped by not only to check up on me but to share a method that she enjoys with her fish. She explains to pour some plain yellow mustard onto my plate and mix it equally with some Tabasco sauce. Then dip my fish in that. Wow. Game Changer! The already great tasting fish now has a nice added kick to it! I’m not even a hot sauce kinda guy but this little mixture was perfect. I’ll be mimicking this little sauce concoction often.

Uncle Larry’s Restaurant is located on MLK Blvd in the heart of Chattanooga, TN. What better way to also pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. than to have a 25ft tall mural painted of the man himself. Very inspiring. I love street art in general so this mural immediately caught my attention when I first drove by.

My entire experience here was very pleasant. The waitstaff was very friendly and made me feel right at home. The food was second to none and the homemade hushpuppies were delicious. I could have ate a whole plate of those by themselves!

Now no matter where in the country I am… when I crave catfish… I’ll really be craving Uncle Larry’s catfish. No doubt. Wow.