Friday, June 3, 2011

"Portland: Where Young People Go to Retire."

We awoke on Tuesday morning to drive across the remainder of Washington and hit the scenic highway 101 for a visually romantic drive along the northwest Pacific coast. It was rainy all morning— appropriate for the the Northwest, unlike the unusually sunny day we spent in Seattle. Though it was soggy and cool, it was still fantastic. The wooded hills and mountains were covered in thick streaks of mist and blanketed in dense patches of ferns. It’s a temperate rain forest, after all; and though the smack of rain against the windshield is always a familiar sound, coupled with the salty Pacific wind, it was exotic and mysterious. As the mouth of Columbia River opened into the Pacific (the final stop for the west-bound Lewis and Clark expedition), we crossed the bridge from Cape Disappointment into Oregon. The ocean was a grey sheet set against a grey sky— you almost had to squint to see the horizon line. A fisherman on his boat would feel like they were marooned in a grey cloud.

We stopped to get gas and have lunch in historic Astoria, where we learned two life-changing items: it’s against the law to pump your own gas in Oregon (a service one could quickly become used to), and the freshly-caught Halibut fish and chips at Ship Inn is everything a lunch on the Oregon Coast should be, particularly when paired with a ruddy British ale.

A couple of observations about Oregon and Washington: #1— log trucks. I knew that the lumber business was important to the region, but I really hadn’t seen them much before. Timber isn’t terribly available in my particular arena of the Midwest. But in the Northwest, the logging companies were vast, productive, and busy. As we passed through Longview (actually, this in Washington. We had to return for a brief foray on Interstate 5, and it goes back into Washington. A bit anti-climatic, actually), I was very impressed with the logging industry. #2— Tree farms. I didn’t realize that tree farms— beyond Christmas tree farms— actually existed. They do. And they’re strange. Row upon row of tall, spindly trees ready to be harvested— peering between a rows is like looking through a shady tunnel with a leafy canopy. I visualized a chase scene inside a tree farm and it would be decidedly sweet. Lastly, #3— hipsters. They’re everywhere. As plenteous as the trees and the rain. And as we passed from Vancouver into Portland, we were where I had long-imagined to be the home of many the hipster.

I loved Portland. It wasn’t quite what I expected, particularly upon first entering the city. Jill, I think, was looking for something space-aged: urban farms atop of shiny, modern buildings and bullet trains or something. There was certainly something of that modern-esque atmosphere: but there was also a rustic quality to the city that appealed to me. First, we visited Powell’s Books— a block-sized used bookstore and coffee shop. Yes, it’s essentially my idea of heaven. This place is huge. They give you a map when you first enter; genres of books are separated by color-coded rooms and then you are set loose to go nuts. My cohorts laughed at me because I was in the store for 15 minutes and I already had a small stack of books I was considering (my final choices were The Violent Bear it Away, the only book by Flannery O’Connor I don’t own, and A Handful of Dust, another novel by another favorite author). We then went across the street to the Buffalo Exchange for a brief foray at thrifting. We tried to find a place for Melissa and Jill to get their noses pierced, but the piercer advised they wait until after our final camp-out, to avoid infection. So instead, we visited the Portland Rose Gardens. I can’t recall how many varieties of roses are in the gardens, but when they are actually in bloom, they must be quite the sight to behold. Despite the lack of roses, the Rose Garden was still beautiful.

For dinner, we visited the Deschutes Brewery. I tried a beer called Hops in the Dark, a dark, rich IPA, and it was absolutely heavenly I also tried an Elk Burger and for the record— delicious. Melissa’s uncle very generously put us up in his home, but before we settled in for the night, we had to make one more very important stop: to the Rogue Distillery, where one can purchase my very favorite beer: Double Dead Guy Ale. I also tried a little bit of their Spruce Gin and it was also incredible. I went to bed a very tired but very happy girl.

Overheard: "Everyone in Portland is the same— they all have the same bumper stickers.”
Gastric Shout-Out: Elk Burger at Deschutes
Listen To: "Grown Ocean," Fleet Foxes


  1. I thoroughly approve of your book choices.

  2. jealous, mostly of the visit to Rouge's distillery and the Deschutes Brewery

  3. You appear to have been beached in Portland. Where is the rest of the trip? Those of us who cannot travel would like to read about the remainder of your journey.