By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. Travel certainly does this because so much is unpredictable, even with planning. My dad was a travel planner, a Francophile and an oenophile (your words of the week). He loved to meticulously plan his trips to the French wine country. I’m not like the Cheshire Cat who told Alice that if she didn’t know where she was going any direction would do. When I travel I like a general direction, but the excitement of wondering what’s unexpectedly around the next bend is what intrigues me. Perhaps this excitement is what stirs my wanderlust.

The Pacific Northwest of our country is a great place to see and experience. I’ve written previously about cruising and specifically seeing the Alaskan archipelago and Glacier Bay by ship. However, what pulls us to this part of the world now is less wanderlust and more about family. You see our daughter, Emily, lives and teaches in Portland, Oregon, and she is marrying Matt.

Though Portland, Oregon has the same latitude as the state of Maine, the weather is much the same as Knoxville’s, though the humidity is less. The temperate climate is undoubtedly due to the Japan Current which brings warm water across the Pacific to bathe the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and the Alaskan archipelago. Surprisingly, this micro-climate produces a temperate rain forest along Alaska’s southern extension. And interestingly, just across the Alaskan coastal mountain range is the Canadian Yukon and subzero winter temperatures.

Portland is known for beer, it’s edgy avant-garde lifestyle, and vineyards which produce notable Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines. And did you know that all hazel nuts (also called filberts) are produced in Oregon?

Our home, Knoxville, is a jumping off spot for the Smoky Mountains and numerous local lakes. And of course our “scruffy” city is home to UT, Volunteer sports and the Lady Vols (to h*#* with Dave Hart and the UT “leadership”).

Similarly, Portland is a gateway to famous coastal beaches and the iconic haystacks. It was here that Lewis and Clark, on their Voyage of Discovery, finally found the Pacific Ocean – though they never found the coveted Northwest Passage. Traveling inland from Portland, the beautiful Columbia River Gorge must be experienced. And the Multnomah Falls is astounding, even jaw dropping, and easily accessible.

It must be on your bucket list. Year round snow capped Mount Hood towers above Portland just as Mt. Rainier rises above Seattle. Both of these volcanic peaks give eye popping backdrops to these great cities of the northwest.

However, I’m not in the Pacific Northwest to write a travelogue, though writing outside my genre stretches me and may perplex my readers who might think they’ve figured me out by now. Nor am I here to again experience the Mount St. Helens wilderness area, a scant fifty miles northeast of Portland. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 35 years since that massive eruption of 1980 which ejected almost a cubic mile of debris from the volcano and affected global weather and temperatures.

Nor have we traveled across the country to see the results of another less well known massive volcanic eruption that took place approximately 7700 years ago and produced Crater Lake. Never heard of this American jewel? Well, you should Google it and put it on your bucket list as well. I believe it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The massive eruption that produced this lake was more than 10 times as great as the eruption of Mount St. Helens. And the caldera produced by the collapsing volcanic mountain resulted in a basin with a twenty-two mile circumference. Rain and snow over millennia have been unable to escape and have accumulated into a lake that is 1900 feet deep and crystal clear. I added Crater Lake to my “repeat bucket list,” but not until after the “wedding of the century!”

We hear much these days about UBER, an alternative to traditional taxis. Most of us are familiar with B&Bs as alternatives to Tom Bodett’s Motel 6. While in Portland we’re staying in an Airbnb. Our spacious apartment in Matt’s home is lovely and analogous to an Embassy Suites-like living space. Like UBER, the Airbnb is less expensive and another example of the free market and American entrepreneurial spirit.

Attaboy Matt and Airbnb! And hooray for UBER, which frosts progressives like N.Y. Mayor de Blasio and Hillary. It’s high time to throw all their bums out of our lives!