Saturday, October 2, 2010


There are few things I enjoy better than being on the road, and I'll say it again: that stretch of I-5, from Redding, through northern California on into Oregon up to the city of Eugene has got to be the best day's ride there is anywhere.

Broad vistas, banked turns,and wide lanes flanked with large trees and idyllic farms for as far as the eye could see. It's cool shit that I recommend to anybody. The sucks part, for me anyway, is that I have to drive 600 miles through the wasteland of California's Central Valley to get there.

The Central Valley possesses a unique beauty of it own, but after the initial 100 miles of rocks and row crops, straight and flat, it all starts to look the same. And much of it has been turned into a dust bowl now.

I left the house at 5a.m., intending to break for the nite somewhere near Medford,OR, but it didn't happen that way. Feeling too good, with way too much daylight ahead of me, I motored on, eventually stopping in Portland at around 8:30. By that time, I'd had enough, and with 1100 miles behind me, my longest day ever, I figured it was time. And I was in no mood to cross any of Portland's frighteningly high bridges,either.


  • Initial reaction: can't wait to get out of here. The streets are narrow and cramped. Everything is too close together. Nowhere to park. All in all... a shit hole.
  • In the morning, after seeing the place in daylight, I was able to recognise a certain charm to the place. But still a shit hole.
  • Met with kr and her brood at around noon. Cute kids, and very polite. Had a great visit and was glad we met.
  • After a few hours in town, I started to understand why people who grew up in Portland wouldn't be able to call anyplace else 'home'. It's unusual, yeah even freakish, but the people on the street seem friendly and welcoming.
  • Personal grooming means something entirely different in Portland, with the dress code amounting to whatever would get you arrested or beat up in Texas (outside of Austin).
  • Nobody really has a functioning lawn, although there is a space for one. The way 95% of the homes are (un)landscaped would draw fines in Southern California.
  • Very few roses are grown in The City Of...
  • But it's a fine place to get around on a bicycle,

I took another brief stop in Portland on the return trip. Well, it was supposed to brief. kr showed me the way to the world famous, OK, maybe only 'Travel Channel famous', Voo Doo Donuts. This place is highly over rated. kr advised me that others have claimed the maple-bacon donut as a religious experience. So I tried one. Basically, it's an unremarkable maple bar with two pieces of crispy bacon on top. You could do that at home. Unless atheism is a religion, I didn't get anything out of it.

And, wouldn't ya know it, I got lost on the way to the interstate and ended up taking another less intentional tour of the city. Two Hours of Lost. By the time I found the escape route, I was almost liking the place. It's a sweet city. Unusual and bizarre. Tight and cramped. Crowded. But cool in it's own way.


kr said...

We love you too ;).

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Man Vs Food!

Also, I hate Portland's roads. *shudder*

Brian said...

Yeah, I didn't see the big deal about Voodoo Donuts either.

But it is really hard to have a bad meal there...last time, we hit the Korean taco bus downtown and some biscuit place over on Belmont (Pine something or other), both fantastically good meals for $5-10.

Finding the freeway is definitely not something you just wing. I think there are basically three freeway entrances in the entire city.

Jade said...

Most of my explorations of Portland (growing up and now) involves driving to one of the parking garages near where I'm going to hang out, parking, then walking everywhere.

For roses, go to the Rose Gardens (which have a lovely view of the city and Mt. Hood in the background)

I like Voo Doo because they have vegan donuts, but by my estimation, Mighty O's in Seattle is better. However Voo Doo does have a personality that reminds me of all the places I used to hang out when I was a teenager, so it has a "home" feel, and the sugar from the doughnut is good fuel for the walk up to Powell's Books.

Dress code? BWHAHAHAHA! This is the NW, we don't need... codes.

Mr. D said...

I almost moved there because of a job transfer in 2006 (decided to stay here instead). There are some cool things about it, but in our experience the traffic was hideous (especially U.S. 26) and it seemed pretty expensive.

The thing that was especially weird was the land use rules -- you'd see these long skinny houses jammed 8 to an acre on one side of a road, then nothing for miles on the other side of the road. The city proper was really cool but it was kinda creepy out in Hillsboro, where we were looking.

my name is Amanda said...

Great synopsis, Gino! My brother and his GF are planning to move to Portland in the next few months. I look forward to comparing your impressions with mine when I help them with the move. (Then I can check out the bookstore kr kept talking up last winter, when I complained about the San Diego used bookstore scene.)

kr said...

Amanda--tell your brother he needs to move before late December, or just not bother until May--cold and drenching rain is no fun for a move (and in late Dec and January there is a good chance of snow--which is nicer for moving than rain, IMHO, except the slipperiness).
bookstore: Powells. Oh, yeah :).

Gino--'wish I'd known you were looking for roses; they are still in bloom at the south end of the local park (one of the three formal public rose gardens in town). Normally the bloom is pretty much over by mid-July, but it was a wet and not-hot summer. Lots of the scraggly bushy things in our unkempt lawns were probably actually rose bushes ... private lawns don't get the care the public parks do. (Portlanders can't decide, generally, how to mix "I'd like a nice landscape" with "that involves watering during low-water months and using herbicides and pesticides" ... and we mostly end up with halfway done, really crappy looking 'yards' ;). Unless we are vegetable gardening, in which case we end up with intensely husbanded, very structured, really crappy looking 'yards' ;). And that's not counting the complications of urban livestock.)

Jade: yeah, I think this must be what gets VooDoo by ... the vegan, and the "it's what was Cool when I was 15--especially the braving scary waterfront/Burnside part" vibe.

Brian: Next time Gino comes up I'll make sure we hit real food; I was not a good food guide this time.

Gino: btw, I appreciated your carefully correct attribution on the recommendation for the bacon maple bar ;).

All: yes traffic here sucks, unless you know the systems well (and even then I'd avoid the 26 unless it's after 9 PM and before 7 am--the MAX train takes a million years, but instead of swearing at traffic you get to read, iPod, knit, laptop, talk to the person sitting next to you, etc.). We (= the city and I) strongly recommend a live-near-work, or only-be-visiting ;), philosophy.

Brian said...

If you are at all interested, this is a bit I wrote after a visit to Portland a few years ago:

kr said...

that was funny :).

There was a book came out in the early 90s about the then-new social theory that we were all sorting ourselves by zip code (which of course the marketers had sussed out first ;) ) ... I suspect that find-your-political-match aspect of Portland or the Bible Belt is getting only more normal as world populations gain mobility.

For the record, I am decidedly anti-abortion and voted for BushI and for BushII at least once. Maybe twice ... by the second round I may have been so disgusted by both major parties that I voted Pacific Green or something. The religous fervor of politics here is actually one of the things I *don't* like ;).