WT2010 – USA – Day 22/23 – Portland, OR (Through rose coloured glasses)

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 2, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 22/23 – Portland
[On the iPOD] Comet Gain / Yacht

Wow, what a busy two days. I was feeling pretty lazy in the morning so didn’t get going until almost 12 (which is fine because a lot of stores in Portland don’t open till 11am, they’re apparently not morning people just like myself) I missed breakky so decided to get lunch and wandered across a place called “Red Robin” which is basically a cross between outback steakhouse and burger king. It has ‘to be seated’ service like a proper restaurant and makes gourmet burgers. It’s pretty much like burger kings big posh brother. They cook the burgers as you order them and have an array of toppings and stuff. It was fairly good. So with energy to meet the day I headed off and decided to explore East Burnside Ave. Which is the ‘truer’ Portland that is; more Suburbia than Inner city new urban buildings. Vintage clothing, Art Supplies, Comic Store, Coffee Shops, Home-made clothing labels. You’ll find all this on Burnside Ave amongst peoples houses though, its fairly spread out and you have to walk a bit.

I was wandering kind of aimlessly in and out of places with intent to find a music store right up the other end. I walked into a store that I’d later find out is pretty popular here called wholefoods where it’s basically a mini supermarket based all on organic produce, they actually have a cafe where you can eat your food within the store. Free WIFI too.

Eventually found the music store after a long wander but nothing of interest that I didn’t already own in their used section. Prices for new albums were moderately okay ($15ish) But still too much to go on a shopping spree for.

I headed back the direction I came and wandered into an underground Comic store (literally) that had boxes and boxes of comics and graphic novels and the like. The store keeper was really helpful telling me about anything and everything but I was just browsing. I later listened to him and a friend/customer rant on about things like something out of Kevin Smith movie. Pretty funny

I then really didn’t have a goal because when I got back outside it started to rain again, total bummer. I was thinking of heading back to my hotel heaps early for the first time on this entire trip! But I wandered past a coffee/tea house and then for some reason decided to walk backwards towards it and inside. Something to eat/drink to recharge a bit.

I got to talking to a local by the name of Noelle in there about Portland and certain Issues, she was working intently on her macbook so naturally I had to find out what about. It turns out she’s investigating Improper imprisonment of people on a case by case basis completely on her own time to try and shine some light on things and perhaps set things right and see justice done. It made me feel kind of selfish, my wandering about the world totally absorbed in all things me and heres someone actually doing some good.

Anyway we got to talking music and other things and next thing I knew I was riding in her trusty volvo on the way to meet her friends at a bowling alley. The entire gang were totally rad people and I petty much got a tour of Portland the rest of the day and night including a bar and some local brews to a place called “Voodoo Doughnuts” It’s a place I took a photo of on my first days wanderings (there was a queue outside) but I didn’t go in. Noelle’s good friend Clint explained their an uber dingy doughnut place that is so bad it’s good. Think BACON on a glazed donut. The place they took me too had a queue at like 9pm at night and they were playing oldschool thrash metal full blast in there whilst waiting to get served. Awesome (in a funny kind of way) Checkout the photos, It’s the ultimate late night diabetes-inducing-snack. I piked out on finishing my second doughnut though. I couldnt do it. I’ll try the bacon one next time I promise (with photos)

Oh I actually won one game of bowling, which was pretty surprising I normally gutter a lot. Anyway we finished the night chilling with beers watching the Portland Blazers totally school NY. It was pretty entertaining.

I started thursday with a sugar hangover. Ugh. Today was a warm day with no rain forecast so I decided to head to Forest Park. But first it was lunch. Portland has great restaurants but apart from those, another thing loved by the locals are certain areas within the city that have ‘trailer-style’ food service. There will be a carpark area and a line of trailer restaurants. Now I know what your thinking (In Australia this is associated with dodgy food) but do you really think they’d get away with serving bad food with the amount of good restaurants around?

I went for a trailer/stall called Nong’s Khao Man Gai and ordered the Chicken and Rice (Chicken is from a local farm) and then dodged the people lining up for their share at all the other stalls. You’ll find every nationality represented in one area or another. Thai, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese and I even spotted a Czech one called Tabor. I’ll try that one another day, apparently it’s great. Anyway I wanted to head to forest park pretty quick cause the food was hot.

As it turns out the park entrance I was aiming for was only 3km away. So I was there in less than 5min and parked on a bench at the entrance digging into the most amazing chicken/rice I’ve ever had anywhere. I love Thai food but have never had anything as good as that.

I should explain at this point that Forest Park isn’t a regular park but more a ‘National Forest’ type park in that it has 100’s of different trails and different entry points and spread acres and acres. Some are opened to bikes and pedestrians, others just pedestrians. I wasn’t knowing what to expect but soon I was following a river upstream and just totally surrounded by green old growth forest.

The photos speak for themselves. For all you Twilight fanatics this is the style of forest they shot the movies in. I walked on and on finding lots of hikers along the way. You’d see HUGE trees crashed across the path but parks services had been in with huge chainsaws and cut them open so you could still use the path it made for great photo opportunities, these massive trees cut open exposing ring-growth and sometimes hanging suspended over water as make-shift natural bridges.

I eventually stumbled onto something unexpected. An old stone hut on the forest trail. It looked about 100 years old or so. No timber left. You could walk up the stairs and inside. I then noticed a ‘downstairs’ entrance that was near pitch black inside. I wandered in and then out and then thought there is missing space. A hidden basement? No as it turns out in the dark area they’d bricked up the room (with modern bricks) probably to stop homeless people from living in there. There was also a map of the area and surrounding hiking trails. I’d walked close to 2km I’d say but this was just a small fraction of the park, it was amazing. It would take you weeks and weeks to explore it all I think. I headed back down towards civilisation.

Next I drove to Portland’s International Rose Test Garden. Mostly because I’ve heard it’s the best spot for photos of the distant Mt Hood (An 11,240ft peak making it the tallest in Oregon) It’s actually volcanic and is apparently the most likely volcanic mountain in Oregon to erupt. I caught a glimpse of it in town (just the very peak) in the sun and it looked awesome. Unfortunately the clouds had completely covered it up in the distance. It’s also too early for the Roses. This garden was established during WW1 as a sanctuary because it was believes the war would destroy many species of rose, since then it has accumulated over 7,000 different species. It must be some sight to see when they’re in bloom. They looked to be a few weeks off though. I’ll hopefully stop back through here either before I leave or on the way back down (I want that shot of Mt Hood!) even though I don’t have a good enough zoom lens.

Next I drove back into town for dinner at a bar/restaurant and again tried a different local brew. Then walked to a store by the name of “Compound” which had a bunch of cool art and design toys, art and clothing. Inspired a bit by Japan I think, but the local work on show was really good. I didn’t buy anything though. Nowhere to put it!

I’d heard about a ‘local’ 3D Museum. A private small one but I thought I’d check it out anyway. It was really interesting. On show were a range of ‘Viewmasters’ (remember those things you’d play with as a kid, the red goggles you’d put wheels in and spin them to see 3D images?) It turns out the guy who invented them was from Portland. The lady who ran the museum was very knowledgeable in ALL things 3D. A total buff. Apparently the man who invented the Viewmaster intended it as a serious scientific tool and spent a years with an anatomist dissecting specimens and taking stereo-photos. In the end it ended up as a cheap toy for kids!

I overheard a man enquire about how 3D stereo-photos that were hung on the wall that we were using a large custom made box to view worked. Basically if you looked at the photo it looked like a regular arty hung photo but there were 2 identical ones side by side (or so it seems) but they’re actually taken by two cameras a certain distance apart and when you use this box to view them (a box with mirrors in it that widens your point of view) you end up looking at this regular photo on the wall in amazing 3D; everything foreground is leaping at you. Remember I’m not talking an image that is blue/red overlaid. It was a regular photo.

Apparently you can do it at home; from memory the ratio of distance between the cameras is 1/30th to that of your subject. So if your aimed at a flower 30inches away, your cameras should be 1inch apart (centre focus point of lens that is) Then you just hang them side by side and buy this viewing tool online or make your own (its 4 mirrors, very easy) One photo was of a fountain, you could see individual splashes of water in the foreground. It was pretty enthralling. The Museum had a 3D movie showing and a bunch of Viewmasters and other 3D stuff for sale. It’s pretty good value.

Oh also the address of the Museum is on ‘Lovejoy’ Ave (ring a bell?) (Reverend Lovejoy) one of the gang from yesterday told me that a lot of the characters from The Simpsons are named after places in Portland (Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons is from Portland) You’ll also find Flanders Ave as well. The Nuclear power plant is based on one that was once powering Portland (it was knocked down years ago) It had cooling towers and everything. Springfield is a city in Oregon!

A long non-stop day. Hopefully the weather holds out tonight for night photography and hopefully seeing a good band or two. Photos below!




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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