Monday, January 31, 2011

Exploring Portland and Beyond

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

The days seem to be flying by. It's hard to believe that today is the last day of January. We have been keeping busy finding out Portland is all about. Shortly after arriving, we made a list of all the things we wanted to do while we're here. If we don't write it down, we'll forget and we'll find ourselves pulling out of town with a lot of "wish we had done that"! Our original list contained more than 15 items and as quickly as we're marking old ones off, we're adding new ones. While that means we'll probably never complete the list, we're certainly trying to make the most of our time here.

We figured one of the best ways to learn about a city is to take a guided tour. On Saturday we took a walking tour of Portland ( It was a little pricey ($19/person), but for 2 1/2 hours of entertainment and education, I think it was well worth it and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city.
A few little fun facts about the city:

  • How did Portland get it's name? There were 2 primary landholders who each wanted to name the city after their home city. One was from Boston and the other was from Portland, ME. They argued for quite some time and could never come to an agreement. Finally, the townspeople had had enough and forced a decision. A penny was flipped and the winner would get to choose the name. So Portland was literally named by a flip of a coin.
  • Portland is home to the smallest park in the world (designated by Guiness Book of World Records). Originally, there was supposed to be a light post here, but the city never completed the project and instead the median remained dirt and weeds. A local newspaper editor, whose office window overlooked the median, was notorious for griping about the city for years and stating that he had the worst view in the city. One day, he planted a bush there and from that day on, his outlook changed and he praised the city in his columns. (yes, that little tree in the round median is the park!)
  • Portland is becoming well-known for it's sustainability, social consciousness and eco-friendliness. There are many miles of bike lanes (I don't remember how many, but several hundred) and one stat that our guide gave us is that there are over 17,000 bike commuters daily. That's a lot! They are trying to become the most eco-friendly city in the world. But biking is not the only way to get around. Apparently, skateboarding is also a common means of transportation, as noted by the skateboarding lanes!

After our tour, we moved on to another "must visit" in Portland - Voodoo Donut. Now, let me say that we're not donut connoisseurs. I never fell for the Krispy Kreme craze and I can't remember the last time I even ate a donut. But this place was consistently listed on all the 'visit Portland' sites and it is supposedly "world famous", so while we were downtown, we decided to check it out. Well, it certainly does have its following. As we approached the building we could see a long line of people outside. I figured it was for something else, but as we got closer, it was evident that they were all waiting for donuts! The line was a mixture of young and old, local and tourist. How could we not join the ranks and stand in line? And stand we did, for probably a good 30-45 minutes! If we had known it would take that long, we probably wouldn't have waited. But once we were in line and watched as the line continued to grow and grow, we couldn't give up our spot. After all, all these people must know something, right? We finally got inside the very small little, non-descript storefront. There was not really a menu to speak of, just a huge variety of donuts. Some were pretty basic looking, but others were topped with everything imaginable (froot loops, cheetos, bacon, oreos, and so much more). So was the wait worth it? Probably not. The donuts were good, but they're donuts. Personally, I would have preferred a freshly baked cookie or even a fresh piece of warm bread. (I guess that's my age speaking!) Although I'm sure they were just recently made, they weren't "fresh out of the oven" hot, nor was there even any scent wafting around to torture us while we waited. But we're glad we experienced a piece of Portland culture and it's not like we had to be anywhere else!

The line (notice the small, handpainted sign before the marquee. That's the door. We probably would have walked right past if not for the line!):

With our sugar buzz in high gear, we buzzed around the city checking out a few more sites, until the sugar wore off and we crashed and were both ready for a nap. It was a full day, but thoroughly enjoyed learning about and experiencing the city. Although we are not really city people, we really like the vibe of Portland and look forward to venturing downtown again soon.

Almost every day we try to get out and see something new. That is one advantage of not working - there's ample time to explore - and we're taking full advantage of it. Of course with no income, we need to be frugal and many of our outings cost nothing, other than some gas. Oregon has a vast state park system, several of which are close by. We try to get out and hike as often as we can, when the weather cooperates.

Tyron State Park, a rainforest in the middle of the city!

We actually have had pretty decent weather. Granted, we've not seen much of the sun, but the area has been experiencing an unusual "dry" pattern the last couple of weeks. Of course, dry is relative. Coming from the arid Colorado climate, I would not exactly call this dry. Most mornings there is fog and the grass is damp. But I guess because there is no rain falling from the sky, they consider it dry. OK, I'll take it!

One morning last week, when the valley was particularly shrouded in fog, the weatherman said the coast was clear and sunny, so we decided to take a drive out there. We didn't really have a specific destination in mind, but knew that Hunter would appreciate a good run on the beach. These days, he only has about 5 minutes of good running energy, but it's still amazing to see him let loose and go! One of the many nice things about Oregon is that dogs don't have to be on leash on the beaches, just under control. Not that we probably had to worry this time of year since the beaches weren't very crowded, but we do like to adhere to the rules. Unfortunately, the weatherman wasn't exactly correct. Once again, I think their weather terms are relative. We did experience some sun on the drive out, but it was pretty overcast and a little foggy in places. But it was still pleasant and we had a great time.

Cannon Beach:

We still have a long list of things we want to do while we're here. We have reservations here at the park until mid-March so that will hopefully allow us to check off many of the items. Despite the weather, we are enamored with the state of Oregon. I don't know exactly why, but it just has the right feel to us. If we ever decide to settle down, this would be high on our list of places. And until then, we hope to return often. Of course, the "problem" with this lifestyle is that there are so many places to go and we want to see them all! It's difficult to think about returning to places we've already been, no matter how much we like them, when there are so many unexplored areas. It's a tough life, but someone has to live it!


  1. i have always loved the canon beach area and all the kite festivals...

  2. Oregon, especially the Portland area is on our list to see one day. I've always heard/read that it has an amazing energy and is a fun filled artsy type of place. Glad to hear you're enjoying your unemployed days. Take advantage while you can :)

  3. I've always liked the Northwest, and that's an area I plan to visit, too. I've done very little traveling, but still remember Eugene, OR from a trip 40 years ago. I loved it.

    I like the idea of taking a guided tour. Especially since I'll be traveling solo, that would be a good way to spend some time with a group of people who are also interested in the area. Glad you are enjoying your free time. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing. We have friends that live in Seattle.

    Travel Safe
    Dawn & Denise

  5. It was nice to see green grass in one of your pictures. Green happens when you have plenty of moisture. Stay safe.

  6. I lived in the Vancouver BC area for a few years. I know what the weather is like and how the winters are. Dry is relative. If it isn't liquid falling down then it is dry.

    Enjoy your time there. It is a beautiful part of the country and remember us who are still in deep snow.


  7. Thanks for all the Portland info, the NW is on our list for next year. We are particularly partial to bike friendly cities, we think bike vs car for a commute would be great. John rode his bike to work for several years in a city that was definitely not bike friendly. Think how much healthier and how much pollution we could avoid if more people were bike commuters.

  8. Connie and Tracy, we spent last summer in McMinnville,Oregon not to far from there and just confirmed our reservations to go back in June.We too are enamored with Oregon and may make it our Home base.Leaving sunny Florida the end of this month to head that way.

  9. I'm in mourning. Voodoo Donuts is (was) on my Bucket List. Now I'm going to have to find another place to get a good doughnut :c(

    Nice pictures of you both with your "puppy". We love OR, our son, DIL and 2 granddaughters live in Astoria. It is hard not to take great pictures in OR. Enjoy your stay.

  10. We love living in Oregon, but we are on the "dry" side, yes, really dry, like Colorado! Mo and I will try your Portland Walk sometime, we have said we want to go to Portland and be tourists there instead of visiting relatives.