Category Archives: Portland

Portland #8

My legs were stiff as they turned over the bikes cranks, 9 hours of driving back from Portland will do that. Portland was much warmer- after the long drive, the evening air had a bite that reminded me I was back in Montana. It felt good on my face.

driving west, clouds

I never mind the drive west.

I went to Portland to represent Energetechs at the PHnw5 conference, geeking out with other building professionals on insulation, window, and energy modeling details for the most efficient buildings in the world. The usual highlights were not to be missed- solving the hardest design criteria in the world and watching my friend David present one of the first PassiveHouse apartment buildings in Portland.

window installation details

Nerdy… window flashing and install details.

speculative passive house

The first speculatively built Passive Houses. The two units sold in 3 days. Props.

This was the 8th time I’ve been back since I left in 2011. I still miss it (this song always runs through my head). There is a strength in my adulthood now that was developed while I lived there. As my ties to that place whither, I’m afraid that strength will also. Driving into inner northeast on Thursday night, the old ties swelled. Music with the band, a few favorite restaurants, and a late night at Stormbreaker Brewing (formerly Amnesia…) completed the feeling. It felt good to show Mark my old haunts, and make new friends in the Passive House community.

portland coffee

Coffee in little tiny cups.

Mark at Multnomah Falls. The spring runoff is big.

Mark at Multnomah Falls. The spring runoff is big.

I’m not sure why my history with that place still feels so important to me. Maybe because I remember having life a little better under control there. Maybe things felt more certain, or just less confusing. It wouldn’t be the same if I moved back, and I don’t really want to, but sometimes the decisions we make are never as cut and dry as they might seem.

“Allow. That’s most of what we have to do. Just allow it. We might not understand now, or ever.  But we will feel it. We will feel our lives. ” (Andrew Given)


ps. the title isn’t wrong. Portland #7 didn’t get it’s own post, but you can read about it here.


Portland #6: A Look Back

(written Sunday night)

Driving down I-84 into the Columbia River Gorge Friday night I felt my chest rise and breathe a little more easily. Portland feels like a stable vantage point to look back at the course I’ve plotted since the spring of 2011. A step back from the (suddenly insignificant) concerns I choose to carry in the day to day of Missoula.

Hello Oregon.

Hello Oregon.

Life seems nice here. Maybe it’s the options for breakfast, but more likely it is the deep relationships that have already weathered time and distance. The bigness of the city reminds me of the smallness of my life, like my brother that reminds me not to take myself too seriously.

Mark and George. Trouble.

Mark and George. Trouble.

My foot is healing.  I’m back in regular shoes, but walking with a limp. Workouts still aren’t a priority, and some of the nerve ends still aren’t firing correctly. Many cups of coffee and brilliant Portland food accompany a description of my life that plays on repeat, every two hours meeting a new old friend. David has an xtracycle that makes riding around town feel even more familiar (I still miss that bike). Being back here seems to lift the self imposed limits I’ve put on my life in Missoula.

Many cups of coffee.

Many cups of coffee.

A little too much fun?

A little too much fun?

I mostly made it back to spend some time with Mark and Kylee before they move to Philadelphia. Upon arrival, my priorities seemed to multiply, and I filled every possible minute seeing people. The farther I am from living there, the more I realize how that place affected my adult life.  Thanks to everyone there that continues to support me, David for putting me up (with a real bed and everything), and George for putting up with me.

Barb, the Doctor, and Gleb (if he weren't in Mongolia).

Barb, the Doctor, and Gleb (if he weren’t in Mongolia).


I’m excited to be back in Missoula. In many ways, this is the harder path, but there’s space here for consequence. Space to try and fail and success and explore. Maybe I didn’t challenge myself to take my Portland life to the next level, but it seemed obvious. I left to follow my journey, and I’m glad to come back here and find I’m still on it.


A number of rare circumstances were in alignment the past few weeks, and while the time has been brimming with awesome, it’s kept me away from writing.  Maybe that’s a good thing?  It started almost two weeks ago.

I don’t really care how you feel about Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act of 2010).  Healthcare in this country has a lot of issues, and I don’t pretend to understand them.  Check out Keith’s blog for far more insight than I can muster.  One issue I do understand is accountability, and the fact that healthcare is a unique product and in a unique market- and because of that, I believe it needs some very careful regulation and standards for accountability.  One fun fact of ACA is that if your insurance company doesn’t spend 80% of the premiums they take from individuals on actual patient care, they have to refund you  the difference.  Time Insurance Company, with whom I had insurance last year while traveling, only spent 71.8% of premiums on patient care.  So, I came home from a day of insulating attics and got a check for 8.8% of the premiums that I paid them.  This is corporate accountability.  This is a good thing.

Who likes getting their money back?  Me and a check from Time Insurance.

So that was cool…

Then my friend Maggie from Portland stopped in for a few days.  I knew it was about to be hectic, but Maggie is one of the most easy going people I know, and after many nights crashed on her couch last year, I was grateful to return the favor.  Suffice to say we had too much fun to take any photos, and part of that was because the Strangled Darlings also arrived a day later from Portland.  They are some of my favorite people to make music with.

Wednesday night we jammed until Thursday.  Thursday we ate and drank until Friday.  Friday we jammed on the street in the afternoon, ate in the evening, and played music until Saturday.  Poor Maggie finally got fed up with it and finished making her way to Bozeman, where I look forward to visiting her this winter ;D

Two local tango instructors turned more than a few heads tearing it up on the patio…

Saturday we started playing music at 4pm- and one way or another, between myself, my friends with Border Affair (a little music ensemble I play with here in Missoula), and the Darlings, we didn’t stop making music until Sunday.  A huge thanks to Draughtworks Brewing for having us out and letting us make some noise.  Somehow we got free tacos from the taco truck out on the street, otherwise we might have perished.  The staff mentioned that in 8 months of hosting live music, no one had gotten people dancing like we did.  It was a very good time.

A huge thank you to everyone who came out to Draughtworks.  Huge thanks to Jess for hosting the after-party.  And, somewhat sheepishly, huge thanks to Steve for waiting until 11am on Sunday morning to go rock climbing…

Photo courtesy of Steve Cundy + Instagram.

Steve yet again showed me another Bitterroot rock climbing gem at Big Creek.  You have to rally up a gnarly Forest Service road to get there, but there’s a perfect old school 5.10a stembox and a bunch of fun bolts to crank.  My hand is finally starting to feel good again, and plans are brewing for an excellent weekend.

Portland #5: Out to Sea

“Portland is like the ex-girlfriend you talk about too much.”
My friend pointed this out towards the end of a nightcap a while ago.  I found her suggestion both accurate and somewhat snarky.  It was the truth however, and I felt no shame in acknowledging it.  Emotions have been swinging lately- foot pain, lethargy, and loneliness mixed with equal parts music, food, and professional success seem to make stability illusive.

Moonlight on clouds above the Clark Fork- an ideal setting to do some thinking.

My broken foot has kept me away from most of my stabilizing and affirming summer activities (climbing, running, hiking, etc.), and I dislike the prospect that my running season is likely over for the year.  No surprise that I’ve been feeling a gaping void in my life without these things to fill in.  Summer is here in earnest, and while the void has been partially filled with BBQs, music, and new activities (like canoeing?  I haven’t been in a canoe in years…), I’ve found it easy to slip back into the frame of mind that yes, life was better in Portland.

I think about the process of moving to Portland in 2007 (the last time I really moved to a new place permanently), and realize that the deep and painful self-inspection and re-creation of myself that I went through during my early time there masked the challenges of embracing a new place and new people.  Embracing the new things seemed secondary and easier than the more immediate challenges of addressing some problematic issues at the core of my character.  Here in Missoula, my goals seem bigger and I expect more of myself, and thus the challenges may seem harder (fun to note that the challenges I’ve struggled with are consistently related to the goals I described when I moved here).

Was showing my new roommate around Missoula last Friday and stumbled upon a classic car show “cruising the strip”. Small town American west at it’s best.

I found myself reading a stellar blog by Liz Clark (patagonia surfing ambassador and world traveler extraordinair) last night, and somehow it reminded me that while Portland was an important part of my experience, that was then and it isn’t now.  I left that place because I stopped finding magic happening there.  Where the magic happens is almost always just outside of your comfort zone. I’m out to sea on my journey, and while it occasionally isn’t as pretty or fun as Ms. Clark’s, it’s mine, and being outside the comfort zone (that perhaps Portland represents to me right now) is a good sign that I’m doing it right.

I think this is what I’m exploring on this journey. Saw this on facebook originally, but found online here:


A few weeks ago, I had been talking to my mom about writing- she had two pieces of advice:

Good writers are people who notice, and who write to learn more.

I’ve been turning her words over for a while now, and thinking about how I learn.  How I progress, how I change myself, and how I let others change me.  It’s about the questions- the ones others ask of me, and of themselves (which generally beg, are you asking yourself that question?).

Once upon a time I was passed over for a leadership position for a group I was in.  I wasn’t bitter, I respected both of the two leaders that were selected, and we went on to work well together.  I did solicit the feedback as to why I wasn’t selected– “they others, they asked the right questions when we were evaluating them.”  I accepted that, and understood it in that situation.  The example has always stood out to me- take the time to ask the questions, and think about whether they are the right ones.  I’ve got big questions at work, at home, and outside– are they the right ones?

Most of the time I feel like I don’t notice, and don’t ask the right questions, and I don’t believe that just continuing to ask is any assurance you’ll ask all the right ones.  How do you make sure you ask the right questions?  (post answers to comments if you like)

Just before I left Portland, an acquaintance offered me 5 keys for success in life. Maybe the right questions point here?

Portland #4: In Limbo

The most recent adventures have pulled more on my heartstrings than my hamstrings.  About a month ago my boss invited me to join him for the PassiveHouse Northwest conference being held in Portland.  Aside from the topic matter (that has become increasingly more important to me of late), I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to see friends and spend some time in the previous home city.  About a week ago, I realized that making the trip was also likely to involve some challenging emotions.  We’ll stick to the facts first.

PassivHaus is an aggressive German standard for designing and constructing buildings with ultra low energy use and ultra high air quality and comfort.  In the design community it has a reputation for attracting some of the most zealous and nerdy folks that the architecture and engineering community can offer.  I prefer to think that the standard simply represents the next logical step in how buildings really must be designed and built. In general, folks at the conference were well behaved, very amiable, and geeked out really hard (star of the show was the guy who built a PassivHaus in Fairbanks, Alaska).

Yes, yes, this is a bunch of people standing around gawking at a window mockup-- only at a PassivHaus conference.

Close up of what all the fuss is about. Really high performance windows from Germany.

A mildly color adjusted image of a double stud wall with no thermal bridging. Nerdy as charged.

Building materials test chamber- for wind driven rain up to 200mph...

In between conference duties, I squeezed in time with old friends, and wandered in old familiar places.  I stared down some heavy emotions about careers, opportunities, friends, love, and the direction I’d like my life to take.

I miss Portland.  I miss the deep and high quality friendships that I have there.  The high salary gave me ample freedom of choice, and the city itself met much of my criteria for where I want to be.  I found two musical partners there that continue to write and perform music that I love, and loved to be a part of.  I honed my skills there in a career that is important and meaningful, and yet somehow in my gut, my life isn’t there.

I love Montana, and have ever since my first trip as a kid.  The access to the outdoors is phenomenal.  I’ve found meaningful work to get back on my feet, and live a simpler life that is more locally oriented.   In many ways, life here is better balanced, and I’m looking forward to many awesome, local adventures.  I feel honored to work with the people that I do, and am excited to be developing new skills an knowledge in the building design field I’ve done well with in the past.

I’ve found a little more peace since returning to Missoula, but my heart was in limbo for most of last week.  No doubt, I’m sticking to my commitment to Montana, but it was an interesting trip to Portland.  Below is a small bit of wisdom I picked up on the way:

John Ruskin was a wise man.

“Any pain associated with leaving something behind is usually a good sign that it was worth what you paid for it in the first place.” (George Veech)


I don’t know, or care, if the title is a word.  Since getting back from Bozeman last Thursday morning, I’ve been low on motivation.  Perhaps the adrenaline associated with moving to Missoula finally wore off, or that the pain in my left foot is finally strong enough to seriously slow me down.  I spent the first day of 2012 with Hannah at Jerry Johnson hot springs, just over the Idado border- not a bad way to ring it in.

The New Year looks pretty good.

I just gotta jump into this year.

I do know that of the holidays, New Years Day and Thanksgiving are the ones that matter the most to me.  New Years (now) is a time to re-motivate, to plan, and dream big dreams about the coming year.  Thanksgiving is a time to reflect, appreciate, and respect how what may have been decided over New Years may or may not have gone down.  Strangely enough, while my Thanksgiving was full of gratitude, my New Years is somewhat absent of the motivation that I normally associate with this time of year.

Thankfully, I’ve spent this week hosting an awesome visitor in Missoula-  Jess, from the fabulous Strangled Darlings, came out to visit.  Her cheer, and desire to understand this place that I enjoy so much, made it an active week despite my low motivations.

If you come to Missoula, this may become mandatory.

Highlights included some great jamming, a carousel ride, trivia night at FLBC, and a day trip up to see the Missions and Flathead Lake.

So good to see a bit of Portland out in the Montana field.

Some of the view that first tempted me to Montana- the Missions.

For whatever lack of motivation I feel this year, I realized this on my hike yesterday: the most important thing to do with my life this year is not worry too much about it.

“Today isn’t special. We aren’t special until or unless we make ourselves so. And everyone’s journey is one day shorter. Did you use this day?” (attribution withheld out of respect for respect for the speaker)

Tomorrow is as full of opportunity as you make it.

Does It Matter?

It’s a blunt question.  Does it matter?  It’s also a very useful razor.  When applied to so much of the drama, heartache, and confusion we see in everyday life, I’ve found that asking this question is a surprisingly useful exercise.

I’m scared of how hard it’s going to be to start my own business.  Does it matter?  Being scared will get you nowhere, what matters is your willingness to do the work.

I’ve been moving this week- cleaning up in Portland, setting up in Missoula.  I have an address.  I wrote a rent check.  Some of my stuff that hasn’t seen daylight since March has been unpacked.  I’ve done loads and loads, and loads of laundry.  For all the uncertainty, I still feel this place embracing me, and that feels good- that’s what matters.  Here are a few photos from the move, let’s just say I didn’t pick up anyone from Rideshare…

Leaving Portland on Wednesday, with perfect vis on Mt. Hood

Lots of driving... lots and lots and lots.

Notice how low the back end of the Jetta is- the wheel well compression is visible. Also the lack of a front passenger.

Packed to the gills.

The bike is itching to roll again...

Landing, and stuff explosion.

Portland #3: Lessons

After an unexpected full week in Montana, I drove back to Portland today.  The time in Missoula was just what I was looking for, and it’s exciting to say: I’ve found housing and a new community that seems to welcome me with open arms.  This time, the trip to Portland isn’t returning to home, but rather to bring my sense of home to Missoula.  Yep, that’s right, I’m moving- now that I’ve published it on the blog, I’m committed.

Typical Missoula sunset. Awesome.

When I decided to come back from South America, I knew I wanted to be in a smaller community.  I want to know my neighbors, live close to the outdoors, and try something different.  I don’t have a job lined up there, and I only have a few months of savings left, but somehow this simply feels like the right thing to do.

Where else can two adults have a perfectly stellar time riding a carousel without anyone raising an eyebrow? (Thanks for Hannah for a fun outing!)

More than just my belongings, I look forward to bringing many important lessons with me from Portland to Missoula.

  • Be discerning about the people you spend your time with- your friends an excellent mirror for your character and direction in life.
  • In business, accountability is all that really matters.  Accountability=integrity=success.
  • Live your life on your terms and no one else’s- you are an adult, and you get to make the call on what that looks like.
  • Success is looking back with no regrets, and knowing the next thing you do will be the best thing yet.

I arrived tonight feeling very under the weather, so this post is shorter than I’d like.  Suffice to say it felt hard and scary to think of moving my stuff out of here, of leaving regular contact with so many wonderful friends behind.  This next step feels like the greatest adventure yet, and that doesn’t come without some discomfort.  I’ll look forward to seeing many people in my next few visits (I’m making two trips PDX<–>MSO), please be in touch if you are here in PDX.  A few photos from the week:

Even better than my beloved New Seasons...

Even Miss Rasa (daughter of my friends Jeremy and Crissie) gets involved with the recycling effort.

In the West

I’m back in the west.  I can tell by the smell of the air, by the color of the land.  By the vast open spaces.  Late summer is dry and hot, with a crispness to the night air that is telling of impending fall.  I fell in love with the west as a teenager, and my roadtrips here then were usually at this time of year.  I was glad to leave the Nebraska cornfields behind, and giddy to get into Idaho range country.  The pull of home was irresistable after crossing into Oregon and dropping down to the Columbia River valley.  It was a good trip to remember why I have chosen to live here, and will likely continue to live here.

I rolled into Greeley, Colorado on Tuesday night to meet my friend Jen. She and I met through her boyfriend while I was skiing in Jackson, WY this past January and I didn’t realize I would have the opportunity to see her until she responded to my facebook post. We had hoped to spend Wednesday climbing some of the excellent granite in the area around Estes Park, but it rained like the end of the world, and we decided to enjoy some of Fort Collins other offerings.

I'm fortunate to have two great companions for a rainy day- Jen, and an Americano from the Bean Cycle.

Fort Collins might be second only to Portland for outstanding local brew.

I got back behind the wheel on Thursday, and met a load of nuclear waste traveling across Wyoming.  I believe nuclear power is an essential component to making the transition to an all renewable energy economy, but our lack of political will about how to deal with the consequences concerns me.  Currently most waste is stored under water at holding tanks next to existing reactors, a bare bones solution that doesn’t address long term consequences (just another example of not paying for the full cost of our decisions).  This article was written 14 years ago on the subject, and not much has changed…  These guys were apparently headed to the low level waste disposal facility in Clive, UT.  Lots more interesting information on nuclear waste and nuclear power.  I know there have been a lot of links, but this one is 30 seconds and you’ll be glad you did.


You see all kinds of stuff on the road...


Just after the Wyoming/Utah border, even the rest stops are in Red Rock country.

I made a quick stop in Ogden to start making good on my goal to learn harmonica, and talked to my mom during an amazing sunset on the Utah/Idaho border Thursday night.


A perfect western sunset.

I camped at the City of Rocks National Reserve, but still didn’t get any climbing in!  I did get out for a gorgeous morning scramble though, and look forward to coming back another time with appropriate equipment.


Good to get the lay of the land, this place is off the map.

It was hot in Idaho, really hot, and I started to feel a distinct pull for home.  Originally I had planned to meet the owner of the van for a day of climbing in eastern Oregon, but when I crossed the border back into the home state, I knew where I was headed.  I turned up the techno and rolled into Portland around 8pm last night.  More thoughts on exactly what rolling into Portland felt like coming soon.


I picked up the van at 203,446 mi... that's 3,398 all told.