WT2010 – USA – Day 20/21 – Portland

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 1, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 20/21 – Portland
[On the iPOD] The Thermals / Radiohead

Probably the first time I’ve left my hotel in an organised fashion since hitting the states. I woke up, was out the door and in the car within 10minutes. I had a big drive ahead of me; Portland, OREGON was 1023km away according to the GPS. American highways still amaze me. You’ll have 5 lanes and then you’ll see a sign saying carpool lane up ahead and they’ll just build another lane, they have the space. You have 6 lane highways for miles and miles. It doesn’t stop congestion though, at one point leaving San Francisco I swear it was 8 lanes wide (when some lanes joined for a bit. The American solution to everything ‘build it bigger’) or add more.

Anyway there was traffic for the first hour and then it started to fade off (it was never as bad as L.A though) and eventually I’d left San Francisco behind and was staring amazing hills/mountains in the distance. This opens up to flat plains and a 2 lane freeway (all dual carriageway) which is immensely safe. You’ve gotta hand it to the Americans in this regard. Nothing like the 1lane v 1lane accident-waiting-to-happen roads you find in Australia.

Eventually you start to notice the temperature start to drop and rolling plains start turning into alpine forests and you start climbing hills and then theres fog and rain and more fog and rain. Northern California is beautiful. I was making good time but I’d still be arriving 7:30pm so I kinda didnt want to stop. Weather was getting worse and the rain began to pickup. A few hours from Portland and the drive becomes rather intense. You get huge lumber trucks carrying these creaking huge trees crammed on the back of them. They kick up a 5metre high wall of spray as they climb the hills and wind through the S-turns.

I’ve driven a fair bit; the entire East Coast of Australia in fact (in various directions) but never anything like this. Perhaps in parts for an hour or so. But not 4hours + of hill climbs and hill descents and S-bends in the pouring rain. There wasn’t a bit of flat straight road to be found! I was kind of loving it but also very very weary of being in a FWD car with low quality tyres and the amount of water on the road. Aquaplaning on one of those bends at that speed would be tough to counter.

Eventually the Alpine course gave way to the final stretch into Portland, normal freeway. It was a foggy night and you first spot a few building and think Oh its Portland! Rad! But then as you round the bend on a certain highway the first thing you spot are amazing bridges, six of them to the left I believe and one out of view. The bridges cross the river that splits the city down the middle but it bends a bit so you get this contrast and elevation of bridges and the city lights and the fog below and the river and it’s amazing on first sight. I don’t know if it was the fact I’d had to put up with harsh conditions for 10hours to get there that made me so awe-struck.

I leaped for my camera and fired off shots only to have the view go out of sight quickly. I told some friends it’s better than Paris but perhaps it was just the Winter equivalent of a mirage in the desert. Portland and it’s bridges sticking out of the fog after hours of roaming the forest highways. I got to my hotel and was so tired and it was literally 2 degrees outside and pouring rain I didn’t go out at all.

Sunny sunny Portland, I awoke to drizzling rain and gloomy conditions. The forecast is like this until Thursday. I begin to layer-up; a long-sleeve shirt, a long-sleeve flannel, a jumper with hoodie and a jacket with a hoodie. Walk outside; COOOOOOOOOLDDDDDD BACK INSIDE! I don’t know what it is about this town but it feels colder than being in the snow. Perhaps it’s the fact the sun is obscured by immense clouds, Im not sure. I cross my first bridge heading to the “Pearl District/Old Town” to roam around rather aimlessly. Eventually I try and find gloves (yes it was that cold) but I was after the fingerless variety to no avail. After taking a few shots the rain started to pickup and I needed to head somewhere indoors.

Stumbled across a bookstore which looked a good a place as any. As it turns out it’s apparently the biggest used book store in America or something. It’s a fricken city block with 4 levels! Awesomeness. A quick dip into the magazine section before I decide what I want to find; I spot a magazine called “Giant Robot” about Asian Pop Culture has some interesting articles on Music and Film and Art and Anime so this one is coming home with me. I then browse the Music section and there are a heap of interesting reads but I already have a book for this trip for cold days in. So I head to the photography section and find something I’ve been after since L.A. Perfect! $50 later and Im out in the cold again.

Really needing food I instead find a record store. Theres an ok selection of stuff but nothing I’m after. I do get a good tip theres a Sushi joint nearby though. So I head straight there, finally some Sushi in the states and it was pretty damn good. After lunch the weather calmed down a bit so I got to roam a bit more. I ended up somewhere or other North of town, I pretty much explored the entire Pearl district and areas nearby. Portland is basically split into four quandrants, two either side of the river. So I guess that’s one down three to go? I didnt get to the major park west of the Pearl though because the rain started to get really heavy. Luckily by this point I’d purchased an umbrella. Somehow I was still cold though with 2 hoodies on my head.

Back at the hotel taking the second most northern bridge (second tallest?), which I don’t know if it was the lack of food but I got vertigo on. For those that don’t know I HATE heights. I know it’s completely illogical to get the shakes on a bridge built to withstand a few thousand tonnes of automobile but the stairs up had space between the steps where you could constantly look down whilst climbing, ugh. Plus the wind and the rain blowing you around. Not very pleasant. I crossed the bridge though. Two down six to go? (I’m not sure if you can walk across all of them)

Portland during the day has the feeling of a working class town in places; theres the obvious Port and Industrial areas up the river. In the Pearl district however you find this perfect blend of brand-new modern urban development and old and original buildings converted into cosy bars and restaurants. It’s kind of like Melbourne but not as Multicultural (though it is) but more Old-American. You look at one bar and think; back in the 1920’s this would’ve been the secret hip hangout to get a drink during an era of prohibition. Then on your way across the road you see an ultra-modern light-rail system with simple and well organised stations and theres a few different lines with different coloured trams. Next you’ll see a modern urban art space for hire, a gallery, a great book store, a craft store and so on. A Victorian-esque park with a statue of Lincoln.

At this point I started to wonder, hold on where is everyone? And wheres all the traffic? Theres people on bikes and a few cars parked in the streets. A lot of people on the light-rail. It seems like this mid-sized city that has everything except congestion (2pm on Tuesday) As it turns out Portland only has 580k people. It’s smaller than it looks and all the cars are pretty much using the bridges and freeway network that bypasses the city itself to the south/north. That’s why it’s so endearing; you’ve got all these tall buildings yet the city retains a small-town yet cool-inner-city vibe all in one.

The people in charge of planning really know what they’re doing. The mix between heritage buildings and new ones looks grand though slightly yupified down a certain part of the NorthWest it’s only a small part. Portland is apparently the most environmentally friendly city in the USA and according to wiki second in the world. I’m not sure about that but It seems totally feasible after a days walk through one part of it.

I found a place for dinner at night and ordered pecan stuffed ravioli. Utterly amazing, best ravioli ever. Portland actually has many nicknames from “The City of Roses” to “PDX” to “Beervana” the last of which is because it’s home to many smaller beer brewing companies. The restaurant I had dinner at tonight had 7 different beers brewed in Oregon on the menu! Radness. I then headed to a show at a venue which was advertised as noise-rock. The bands were tight but just wasn’t feeling it at all so I left after 2 drinks and a few songs. I decided to headout and take some night photos of the bridges before I got home. Headed to the east side of the city only to get onto a road shared with lightrail. In Melbourne you can drive over the tracks, its a shared area and you treat trams as other cars unless indicated.

I was a bit weary about what lane to take but A car infront of me drove in the track lane so I followed him, he later turned off and then a cop car turned onto the street and pulled me over. Apparently it’s lightrail only in that lane. It was a female officer who was extremely helpful and nice. She asked me where I was going and where I was staying and explained I can’t drive in that lane at all, also advised me to go straight home because she smelt alcohol on my breath. So I decided to call it a night and when I got back there were 2 officers at my hotel making sure I was staying there. Pretty thorough huh.

Probably better to get those night shots on a clearer night, its still foggy and raining. Anyway enjoy the day shots;



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