Three Reasons to GO All the Way TO STEVENSON


By any standard, the Columbia Gorge 'burg of Stevenson, Wash., is a Main Street, U.S.A., fantasyland. The view regularly returns atheists to the pews. Mighty Columbia's gales lure extreme-sports enthusiasts. The town itself is small enough to foster a watertight, everyone-knows-your-name sense of community, but there's never a shortage of goings-on.









And even if Stevenson didn't have any of this to its credit, locals could still brag you under the table on the topic of the Walking Man Brewpub. This homey pub-cum-biergarten is a bona fide Northwest treasure, well worth love from metro-area hopheads day-tripping in the Gorge. And here's why:

It's the real deal. "Not too corporate, is it?" observes Walking Man owner Bob Craig of the funky space he opened in the spring of 2001. Walking Man is what all brewpubs pretend to be but seldom are: reflecting the tastes and eccentricities of a few genuine individuals, rather than a corporate scheme for fun-by-committee.

The crowd. The "local" is a near-mythical concept in rootless times, but the Walking Man fulfills the ultimate destiny of any pub. For a considerable number of Stevensonians, it's the hub of the social universe. That's not to say outsiders are unwelcome--this is not a place where the needle scratches off the record when unfamiliar faces appear. "I see it happen all the time," Craig says. "Someone will come in for the first time, and they'll just get sucked into conversation."

The beer. The Walking Man keeps 10 of Craig's brews on tap at a time. The star of the show is arguably the Homo Erectus Imperial IPA, winner of the prestigious People's Choice award at this year's Spring Beer & Wine Fest.

240 SW 1st St., Stevenson, Wash., (509) 427-5520. 4-9 pm Wednesdays-Saturdays, 1-7 pm Sundays.

The Highbrow/Lowbrow Guide to VANCOUVER, WASH.

Due north of Portland is a sizable city that is the oldest continually inhabited town in the Northwest. Though it's filled with history and civic amenities, Vancouver, Wash., is seldom given its due by the tri-county metropolitan elite. This schizophrenic burg deserves a two-tiered guide to lead tourists between its high and ever-so-low culture.


High: Frenchman's Bar Park

Once a bum's lair where teenagers came to share 40s of malt liquor, this is now a picnic site, complete with play equipment for the kids. Grass-tiered lawns lead down to eight sand volleyball courts on the Columbia River. There are walking trails, restrooms and an outdoor amphitheater. 9612 NW Lower River Road.

Low: Steakburger/Golf-O-Rama

The back yard at Steakburger is a 36-hole putt-putt golf course with amazingly well-kept astro-turf, always a luscious Northwest green. The only drawback is that I-5 is four feet from half of the holes. On a serious note, the milkshakes here, offered in more than 10 mouth-watering flavors, may be the best in Southwest Washington. 7120 NE Highway 99, (360) 694-3421.


High: Fort Vancouver

Though the actual fort site is some distance away, this painstaking replica is worth visiting, especially when the gardens are blooming. Also, once a year the fort reverts to British territory, with the hoisting of the Union Jack in honor of Queen Victoria's birthday on May 18. Jolly right, too. From I-5, take the Mill Plain exit and head east. Turn south onto Fort Vancouver Way.

Low: 7th Street Transit Center

Never a dull moment when all the buses converge in downtown Vancouver. Stand in front of one of the many pawn shops (pictured above) for 15 minutes and be asked for change three times and "do you have a cigarette?" four times, even though you're not smoking. A quaint place where 17-year-old mothers and fathers make out and fondle each other, then scream streams of abuse. Yes, they are breeding. Ah, love. Downtown.


High: Salmon Creek Brew Pub

With few brewpubs in Vancouver, and even fewer that brew good beer, this place stays at the top of the list. The fish 'n' chips are some of the best anywhere, and the IPA is just as good as any McMenamins beer. 108 W Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, Wash., (360) 993-1827.

Low: Checkers Cafe

Formerly Fatty Patty's, this is the home of the "Slops" (Super Large Oversize Portion: a large pizza platter splattered with the contents of the house fridge), Fatty Patty's was a local monument to eating wrong. The portions are as grotesque as the names of the dishes. Eat and die. 10501 NE Highway 99, (360) 574-4440; 9324 NE 78th Ave., (360) 254-5955.


High: The Farmers Market

Although Fruit Valley is now tract houses and Orchards has become strip malls, there are still many small farms operating around Vancouver, and the Saturday Farmers Market is a good place to get a taste for regional offerings. Situated in historic Esther Short Park, the market is a bit of the old 'Couv and a refreshing link to the new. Esther Short Park, downtown at Esther and West 8th streets. 9 am-3 pm Saturdays, 10 am-3 pm Sundays through October.

Low: The Guitar and Loan Row

Conveniently located next to the transit center (see above), Pawn Shop row serves the city's exciting and diverse population of heroin addicts, meth-heads, laid-off Frito-Lay employees and sketchy men with mullets and wife-beaters. You might even find some things that once belonged to you. Main Street, downtown.

Four Reasons to Trek to the DESERT IN SUMMER

The rule's simple: Think Oregon, think rain--foggy coastlines, mist-shrouded mountains, towns teeming with seasonally affected poets. Of course, the rule is dead wrong. A huge chunk of our beloved land has nothing to do with this soggy stereotype. Central Oregon's high desert is a juniper-and-sage-scented landscape where the air is its own form of aromatherapy (i.e., the real kind), where folks see just one-quarter of the rainfall that strafes the Willamette Valley. If it seems paradoxical to visit a desert when the sun is blazing, here is a quartet of excuses to point your auto eastward on Highway 26.

Drama. Oregon offers few journeys as jaw-dropping as the precipitous plunge from Mount Hood's frosty alpine shoulder down into the sparse sagelands of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Providing a reminder of why it's good to be an Oregonian, the drive is like teleporting from The Sound of Music into A Fistful of Dollars.

First national bank of culture. The sprawling Warm Springs Indian Reservation is home to the confederated Paiute, Warm Springs and Wasco peoples. The Rez's brooding desert landscape--studded with lonely pines, crisscrossed by untamed ravines, snow-capped Hood and Jefferson lording westward--was the booby prize after the tribes lost lands along the Columbia and elsewhere. The Warm Springs trio are building a better future, though, with a much-admired cultural museum, arguably the best radio station in the state (hyper-eclectic KWSO, 91.1 on your dial) and an idyllic getaway resort at Kah-Nee-Ta. Plus, fry-bread. See

The Chasm. No one knows how many motorists have nearly crashed when they suddenly come upon the bridge spanning the Crooked River gorge just north of Redmond on U.S. 97. The football-field drop from the high-desert tabletop to the trickling river below is dizzyingly steep, with colorful rock walls warranting a longer look. Plus, you can check out the Oregon Trunk Railroad Bridge, a riveting piece of riveting that played a starring role in the state's early-century railroad wars.

The gourmanderie. For the most part, Central Oregon is steak-and-eggs country, a land where men are men and gravy fears for its future. Downtown in the region's largest city, however, it's a different story. The resort biz is making Bend one of Oregon's ritzier towns; as a result, the city's charming, walkable downtown has seen a full-fledged culinary revolution in the last year or two. The Blacksmith (211 NW Greenwood Ave., 541-318-0588), a brand-new orange-walled joint in a low-slung old smithy, is as Western as all get-out, its meat-heavy menu reading like Cormac McCarthy. Merenda (900 NW Wall St., 541-330-2304) is a flashy, spacious place blending French, Italian and local influences. Cork (150 NW Oregon Ave., 541-382-6881) is a low-lit, romantic and intimate Continental restaurant/wine bar that feels like it's been there for ages, even though it opened in 2001.

Five Things You'll Never Hear "THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE" SAY

The Granddaddy of all steamers, Thomas the Tank Engine is pulling into two Oregon railroad stations this June. For more than 50 years, this Really Useful Engine and his railway buddies have sidestepped scrapes and triumphed as a team using friendship, exploration and cooperation in books and, now, movies. At Day Out with Thomas events, junior engineers and their families have the chance to chug around on a real, working model of this blue No. 1 Choo-Choo. As long as you know what this learning locomotive is all about, it'll be all aboard! To clue you in, here are a few things Thomas won't be tootin' this summer:

I'm tired. This little engine that could isn't relaxing on the sunny Island of Sordor anymore. Thomas will visit more than 40 heritage railroads nationwide in 2003, with more than 1,000,000 passengers taking a ride. You may be dreading the long haul to Hood River, but if Thomas can do it....

Are we there yet? This train has a strict schedule. Thomas rides are approximately 25 minutes long and "Right on Time" throughout the day--whether the track winds through the forested foothills of Mount Hood or to the top of Snoqualmie Falls.

Get off my caboose! There's plenty to do while you wait for the whistle: munch some lunch, meet Thomas' boss, Sir Topham Hatt, or even get your own Island of Sordor (temporary) tattoo.

My engine is bigger than your engine. Even though Thomas tracked 14,950 miles last year (that would add up to more than two cross-country round-trips), this cheeky locomotive is about heart, not horsepower--check out a live story at the station to hear how friends like Harold the Helicopter and Bertie the Bus have kept him on track.

Show me the money! All proceeds from each "Day Out with Thomas" go directly to the railroad--helping to preserve heritage railways through maintenance and train restoration.

Day Out with Thomas, Mount Hood Railroad, 110 Railroad Ave., Hood River, information (800) 872-4661, tickets (866) 468-7630,, 9 am-6 pm Friday-Sunday, June 20-June 29. $14, infants under 12 months .

Globe-Trotting-To-Go: NORTHWEST ADVENTURES on the Cheap

It's tough to scrape up enough moolah to travel to exotic locales in faraway lands, not to mention the task of duking it out with that Dilbert in the next cubicle for a little R&R time. Here's a list of nearby destinations that mimic more international escapades. Bonus: No PDX security lines, and you can bring along all the tweezers and knitting needles you desire. Just remember to buckle up.

Feels like: African safari

The real deal: Wildlife Safari (1790 Safari Road, Winston, 541-679-6761, 9 am-6 pm daily, $17.50 adults, $11.50 kids).

Why make the trek: Drive the family wheels through the Safari's 600 acres of grasslands and wooded areas packed with cheetahs, giraffes, lions, bears, etc. In other words, leave the convertible at home.

Getting there: Take I-5 south to exit 119, about six miles south of Roseburg. About a three-hour drive from Portland.

Shacking up: Pitch a tent for 15 bucks at the Umpqua Safari RV Park & Campground (511 NE Main St., Winston, 541-679-6328). For city slickers, there's a Holiday Inn up the road.

Feels like: French countryside

The real deal: Blue Heron French Cheese Company (2001 Blue Heron Drive, Tillamook, 800-275-0639, 8 am-6 pm daily, ).

Why make the trek: Enjoy samples of Blue Heron brie (four flavors--traditional, herb and garlic, pepper, smoked) and choose from 90 varieties of Oregon wine. If you're not done in after that, have lunch at the deli or take the kids to the petting farm.

Getting there: It's off of Highway 101 just north of town and about one mile south of the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Less than a two-hour drive from Portland.

Shacking up: Close enough to make it a day trip, but there is a Shilo Inn in Tillamook, too (2515 N Main St., 800-222-2244, $100-$140), or you can camp within earshot of the ocean at Cape Lookout State Park 11 miles away (tent site $16, call 800-452-5687 to reserve).

Feels like: Bavarian village

The real deal: Leavenworth, Wash.

Why make the trek: The town where every building looks like a gingerbread house is hosting a series of events that prove Oktoberfest isn't your only chance to wear lederhosen. Enjoy (er...tolerate?) polka jam sessions at the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration (June 18-21, $2 for competitions, $14 for concerts and dances) or eat a wienie at the Leavenworth Sausage Fest (July 4-5). Call (509) 548-5807 for more info.

Getting there: Leavenworth, located 75 miles east of Seattle, is about a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Portland.

Shacking up: There are a ton of oh-so-cute bed and breakfasts in Leavenworth, but they might run you over the $100 mark. Lake Wenatchee State Park is 18 miles away (tent site $16, call 888-226-7688 to reserve).

Naughty-Sounding SUMMER FESTIVALS...
...that are actually good, clean fun

Damn if Bananarama wasn't right. It is a cruel summer. Washington no longer boasts the Manly Man Festival and Spam Cook-Off, and the Pacific Northwest doesn't have the Camel Wrestling Championships like Turkey, the Nude Olympics like Arizona or the cheese-rolling celebration like England. But we can be nearly as strange.

High Desert Fiddlers Jamboree

The devil may bypass Georgia in favor of Burns for this orgy of knee-slappin', square-dancin' and fiddle-playin'. Alas, fiddles may be the name of the game, but don't be surprised if you hear dueling banjos. June 12-14. Burns, (541) 573-1323.

Winlock Egg Days

Huevos of the not-a-euphemism-for-testicles variety have been celebrated every summer in Winlock since 1937. Hard-boiled. Soft-boiled. Over easy. Benedict. Sunny-side up. Scrambled. Fried. Raw. All you can handle, bro. June 13-15. Winlock, Wash. (360) 785-4377.

International Accordion Celebration

When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's accordion. Not only is there a festival heralding this oft-misunderstood instrument, it goes on for five days. Five days. Celebrating the accordion. In Leavenworth. I think Dante would have made this level six if he'd known about it sooner. June 17-21. Leavenworth, Wash., www.accordion-

Frontier Days

I once performed "Funky Cold Medina" at the Frontier Days talent show. My roles were as a dog and a she-male. Crickets chirped, records skipped and somewhere a dog barked. Indeed, today's Frontier Days is much more cosmopolitan, what with the lawnmower race and Dutch oven cook-off. July 3-6. La Pine,

Bohemia Mining Days

This has something to do with celebrating the western heritage of the Bohemia mining district, but I didn't get past the part about the microbrew garden. You probably won't, either. Don't tell the OLCC about all the drinking miners. July 18-20. Cottage Grove,

Tualatin Crawfish Festival

The nation's oldest crawfish festival is in...Tualatin? It had to be somewhere. Folks have been gnawing on steamy little critters
at this shindig for more than 50 years, even after it was cursed by a Louisiana voodoo queen some years ago. Aug. 8-9. Tualatin,

Homowo Festival

This actually has nothing to do with Darcelle or the Silverado. The Homowo is actually just your typical run-of-the-mill traditional Ghanaian harvest festival held in the South Park Blocks near Portland State University. Ghana is a place in Africa, for those keeping score at home. Aug. 8-10. Portland, www.

Elephant Garlic Festival

Garlic ice cream washed down with garlicweizen. Yummy. If you're craving that sweet stank, this fiesta will inflict permanent morning breath. Rose City, meet Stinking Rose City. Aug 15-17. North Plains,

Bathtub Race

Teams of five compete in a mad dash down Nome's main street with one person in a tubful of water on wheels and the rest (decked out in suspenders and wide-brimmed hats) pushing the tub. A statue of Miss Piggy and Kermit bathing awaits the winner. I really hope alcohol is involved. Sept. 1. Nome, Alaska.

Bark in the Park

I'd like to say this has to do with a dominatrix bent on publicly humiliating her bitch, but...well, I guess it's not that far off. It's a canine carnival for dog-loving folk to parade their pooches around on a day chock-full of ass-sniffing, crotch-rubbing and public urination. And that's just for the owners. Sept. 6. Seattle, Wash.

Testicle Festival

Testicles. Balls. Nuts. Cojones. The twins. The boys. Pinky and the brains. This year marks the 21st edition of the Montana festival devoted to eating bull genitals and watching drunk bikers strip to AC/DC. Have a ball. Sept. 17-21. Clinton, Mont.