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We Explore Oregon.

As I’m sitting here in an airport bar, drinking a local Colorado beer (how else am I supposed to enjoy a 5-hour layover in Denver?), I can’t help but feel like a million bucks.  Although I’m choking back tears because I just had to say goodbye to my soul sister, I am beyond grateful for the quick trip to Oregon to visit her and her boyfriend (who is also a soul sister of mine…I hope you find that as a compliment, Mikey, because it is one!). The reason I feel like a million bucks isn’t obvious, and I’m actually having a hard time pinpointing as to why I feel this way – especially because it has such a bittersweet aura about it. The only way I can describe it is with a series of random ‘feelings’…

I am experiencing a sense of ease. I am content, happy, grateful. I’m feeling simplistic, satisfied, protected, supported, and most importantly, I am feeling proud. The reason I am proud has nothing to do with me, but has everything to do the two people I visited. So for that reason the first part of this blog is for you guys: Brianna + Mikey!

(Yes, I am going to get a bit mushy for a minute, but these people deserve a little bit of flattery. And then yes, there will be some beautiful photos of the trip. Which is why you’re probably reading this anyway.)

The Definition of Perseverance

Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Apparently, today the only way I can get my point across is with using descriptive words, so I am going to continue with that, okay? Okay! Brianna is the definition of perseverance with a dash (actually, the biggest tablespoon full) of passion. Without going in to details, this woman has been given a very rough hand of cards within the last 5 years and instead of folding, she has taken these cards and made a card skyscraper – a card WORLD, if you will!

When her whole world turned upside-down in the most heart-wrenching way, she didn’t crumble and juggle the broken pieces – instead she restructured them in a way that cultivated her passion and love for life and the arts. She started out with a career in arts education, but knew this was not where she saw herself.

Instead of settling with the choices she made, she decided to take a huge risk in switching professions – She single handedly got herself into the nation’s best Arts Administration graduate program. Not only was she accepted into the program, but she is taking this opportunity and thriving. For a woman who is as passionate as her, I have never seen her in all our 11 years of friendship, as enthralled as she is now. To say I am proud of her for persevering and acting on her passion is an understatement.

The person you want to hug and never let go of.

Everyone has that person they want to hug and never let go of very a variety of reasons, well that person for me is Mikey. He is the most generous, self-less, and wonderful human being and I could not have hand-picked a better partner for my best friend. I could go on and on about my love and appreciation for him, but at some point it could be perceived as creepy so I’m going to leave it at this.

Actually, before we move on, you should follow his Instagram page – because it features him and the cutest dogs in the world in some of the most beautiful and remote places! Check it out, here!

Anyway, let’s cut the sappy stuff and get to the good stuff!

Yo quiero vino.

Wine is great, but what is even better than just plain wine, is “free wine”. That’s right. Tracey Sands, who drinks wine because it’s basically a fruit and makes her feel giddy inside, got to experience a fancy wine tasting. Not only did I experience one, but two!

The stories of these wineries were better than their wines; Which says a lot because the wine was absolute perfection!


The first winery we stopped at was the Brandborg Winery in Elkton, Oregon. Remember how I mentioned the amazing wine? Well their love story is just as impeccable! The first time Sue (co-owner of Brandborg), had ever tried wine was Terry’s (her future husband) wine he has made in his basement.

A couple years later and she was drinking his wine at a wine festival/symposium in her home town in Wyoming – they met, they fell in love, they got married. A couple years later, they made an ambitious and risky trip to establish their own winery. Honestly, this love story beats the Notebook by a long shot, and I’m incredibly sad to admit that, although I could try, I simply cannot express the true beauty of it. So basically, you HAVE TO make a trip to visit them to learn about their love story, their love for wine and their incredibly brave venture to make their dreams come true.


The second winery was at Abacela. If I’ve ever felt high-class, this was it. We got to experience a winery that was created on a fault-line, in the middle of no-where, with free wine in our hands. After our tour, this is what we walked in to….

If you know me, I was immediately crapping my pants because there were cloth napkins, multiple wine glasses that I didn’t understand a purpose for, and a cellar full of glass around me….this was essentially a mouse trap for me to make a fool of myself. Fortunately, I made it through with out anything broken. YAS! Turns out, I wasn’t the only one acting like I was sober and totally familiar with this lifestyle.

(Please see below for a selfie of us about 5 minutes after this tasting was over….)

Sotally Tober….


But we’re cute….

Anyway, that was a great day for obvious reasons. The next day of excitement included a lot of mountains, water and naked bodies.

Willamette National Forest

The day started of with fresh biscuits and gravy…as a vegetarian, this meal usually makes you want to punch yourself because its so damn good but not animal friendly. Well since my friends are so amazing, they made the best vegetarian gravy and homemade biscuits I have ever had. Literally, the best. Which is a good thing because what I was about to experience needed a lot of energy and confidence.

Let’s just say, I had an initial intimidating, turned to freeing experience hiking to these hot springs to become absolutely naked in front of a decent-sized crowd. There’s something to say about being in nature and doing nothing but appreciating it in all it’s glory and in yours. That may be a weird sentence and hard for some to understand, but I challenge you to experience it and it may surprise you! (Don’t worry, the pictures below are G-rated.)

craft beer

Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Goodbye’s suck.

This morning at 5:30am, I had to say goodbye to my best friend. I’ve learned over the past few years that there is nothing more important than family and friendships, and if there’s one friendship that I will always value its hers. Saying goodbye to Nana, hurt; it sucked…there’s no way to sugar coat it. We hugged for about 3 minutes, I let go of her, saw her crying and had to hold on tight not to lose it. I shut the sliding glass door and felt the water works coming. Luckily, in rural Oregon, it’s basically it’s own sprinkler so everything was covered in water. I immediately stepped in a huge puddle of water and my entire foot (socks, shoes and all) were soaked.

My word of advice…if you’re ever about to cry, get your feet wet instead of your cheeks; go ahead and step in a puddle. Let’s just say that it definitely redirects some feelings.

Anyway – this isn’t goodbye, this is a “see ya soon!”.

Peace. Love. Exploregon.

XO. The Welcome Woman

Willamette National Forest, Oregon

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