Road Trip to Oregon Part II: Portland

*Finally I have finished the second part of our Oregon Road trip. Sorry for delay!

The second half of our road trip consisted of touring Portland. We (Reuben, River, Dave and I) stayed with Kathy’s brother and his family. Kathy stayed down the road with the older daughter of her brother. Space was a little cramped so everyone was spread about. We had a good time hanging out and seeing Portland.        I have heard a LOT about Portland over the years. Many things varying from person to person, but the common theme was how great it was, how different and in some cases, how awesome it was. I know quite a few people who have traveled through, stayed for a month or two or even grew up in the Portland area. I’ve rarely heard negative things about Portland and have had many referrals to how much I would like it, how much I would fit in, and how well I would do there. I usually become increasingly suspicious as more ‘positive’ things are lumped in to convince me of whatever it is that someone is steering me towards. Even so, I knew that Portland would not be a traditional city and that people would expect me to like it. Reuben, who had already been to Portland, was not such a fan of the ‘different’ vibe and was regaling me with his stories of why I wouldn’t like it. I told him that while I enjoyed the stories, I would be making my own judgements of the place. So on a pretty and very warm Monday we explored. River of course was in tow and with the abundance of open-mindedness and acceptance that Portland was foretold to have, I deducted that Portland had to at least be as dog friendly as Seattle and that River wouldn’t be an issue, particularly since it was a really nice and sunny day – hence we could eat outside! So with backpacks for our jackets (just in case) we set out for a day on the town.

We rode the link train into Pioneer Square (which is nothing like the Pioneer Square in Seattle).  First thing I notice on the train into Portland was the.. shabbiness for lack of a better term of the link trains. While I knew they were much older than the brand new link trains in Seattle, I didn’t expect the 90’s-reject of New York’s-nasty-subway-cars feel. Our first mission was to find coffee. Starbucks was acceptable, and in we went. No restrooms in sight, we breezed up to our barista who was in the upper clutches of her 30’s but with an unusual amount of dreads for a white girl. I’ve many a good friend who carry the dreadlocks look and do a great job of it. Hers were nothing of the sort. Clearly unwashed and uncared for, the overall end result was “she touched my coffee?!” I’m still not sure how a city big as Portland would have need for a food industry worker who was not even presentable…

Suspicious coffee in grasp, we set out to find food. After walking blocks and blocks in a few directions with no outdoor patios or even just a small table in sight on the over-sized, non-crowded sidewalks, we checked the food court in the mall for semi edible fare. Now in Seattle, we can take dogs in the malls. From the glares and stares I was getting with my well-behaved, cleaner-than-the-workers dog, Portland was maybe not so accommodating with dogs. During our search of outdoor seating we found next to none, including on Yelp. So we started focusing on other things instead!

Around the city there were beautiful sights, cherry blossoms in full swing and other flowering plants. Below is an interesting structure as we approached the park were the Saturday Market was held, only… in Portland it doesn’t happen on Monday (or Saturday), I was told.

In Seattle the Market is 7 days a week so we were a little bummed that we couldn’t see it. For a Monday, there was also an astounding amount of homeless around. The bum taking a nap was one of the few ‘homeless’ people I saw that actually looked homeless. Most were hipster kids and young hippies who didn’t look too down on their luck but were nevertheless panhandling or just plain begging. Seattle like any large city has a good amount of homeless, but they are indeed homeless and are visibly down on their luck. Portland is nowhere near the size of Seattle and the homeless did not seem sick or hooked on anything, more backpacker – free spirit without any self-respect. I wasn’t sure what to think. There were a large number of dogs with the homeless hippies who were also very well fed but sitting on street corners as well.

Pooches everywhere and more interesting constructed concrete as we headed into the park along the Willamette river:

Giving River a drink from one of the many continually running fountains scattered around the city:

I found them to be a little odd and somewhat gross..which perplexed Reuben until I explained that they were not ‘dog fountains’ and pointed out the many – less than good hygiene – people slurping from them in ways that most surely spread every disease known to man (and some awful up coming ones I’m sure) possible. The dogs seemed to really appreciate them though!

Reuben and I were petitioned for more causes during just one day than we’ve ever been harassed about in any other city I’ve walked through. Was kinda surreal. There did not seem to be many people with a schedule out on the streets. I’m rather used to the hustle and bustle of larger cities in the downtown areas – especially during working/school hours. The people on the streets of Portland seemed to have nothing to do (I’m not just talking about the tourists here) and no where to go. It was slightly unsettling in a post-apocalyptic sort of way.

The city of Portland had a most strange way of pruning their poor trees. To me it looked like a happy mad butcher job or a experiment in how much they could cut and have the tree come back each year. The cherry blossoms were still beautiful though.

Vivid pink Magnolias gave a distinct charm to the city that even hipsters playing awful music couldn’t take away.

Magnolias and pink – tinted cherry blossoms. Spring may not be my favorite season, but I do enjoy the sights of it.

Whilst snapping blossom shots, I couldn’t help but take this rather dramatic shot of our flag among the Magnolias.

A view of downtown as we strolled through the park.

Budding trees, bright blossoms and brick buildings!

One of the many pretty historical buildings.

While out walking, we saw many odd sights. A brightly clad man on a strange-looking bicycle with a boombox playing the most annoying and strange music. We saw him again hours later still peddling around only clear across the city… Tattoos and strange jewelry, odd clothing choices and badly dyed hair. My favorite were the young people dressed as fashionable Armageddon survivors, without the practical streak. I guess its cool to look like your wardrobe comes from a salvation army dumpster? I kept expecting to find the circus I assume must be somewhere (for why else would there be clowns in the streets?) but we never did.

Pretty street lamps amongst the cherry trees:

A field of blossom! All cherry. River enjoyed scampering about and snuffling like a weasel.

A lane of Cherry trees! I can see some serious photo shoots happening in this place.

End of the road. For the Cherry trees anyway. We headed out to locate Powell’s Bookstore and maybe some food!

We stumbled upon a public restroom (they were very hard to locate for some reason) and had to wait for the line, at which point we learned the reason for a noticeable lack of facilities was drugs. While we were waiting our turn, one of the street people proceeded to shoot up instead of actually using the restroom..

Powell’s was indeed a very impressive used bookstore (they boast it is the largest one in America) but my pleasure at being surrounded by books was dampened due to being booted out because River was resting quietly in my arms… I’ve never been kicked out of a bookstore because I had a small perfectly well-behaved and silent dog with me! I was just a little pissed.. my dog is light years ahead of the screaming brats that non-disciplined parents drag everywhere and subject the public to. And in a bookstore to boot — no food in sight!

Reuben and I were also kicked out of a coffee shop because of River even though our order was to-go and I was only waiting for Reuben who was in the bathroom. In Seattle, River is allowed to stand in line with me at Starbucks, receives pets from the baristas and sits at my feet in restaurants at Pike’s Place. I was having a hard time finding the easy-going – acceptance that everyone had bragged about for Portland. The Pub also chased us out when we walked to ask for a menu… I didn’t even take my poor dog in!

I located the camping site for whats left of the Occupy group. I have slept soundly in the dirt, taken naps in swamps and gone without soap many times; but the smell alone was enough to make me wish for a shower on the spot and think ill of the human species. With all of the tax dollars Portland spends on public stuff I’m sure there is a program somewhere that has showers…

While I didn’t come to hate Portland like Reuben leans towards, I found myself looking forward to being back in Seattle. It was certainly different, a place that seems untouched by the idea that it’s not cool to be a bum or that drugs are bad for you… There were a lot of things we did enjoy during our walkabout but getting treated like scum because we had backpacks wasn’t one of them.  Once outside of the city, the suburbs were just like any other and box stores complete with spacious restrooms were a plenty.

After our experience, Reuben and I looked up the TV show called Portlandia which is supposed to portray the city of Roses. It comes pretty close to a home run but hands down the best part is the theme song complete with a video. Click on the YouTube link to see – and if your really brave you can check out the entire TV show, but I do ask that you watch the music video since it captures everything we experienced!

Portlandia theme song music video link :  http://youtu.be/AVmq9dq6Nsg

~ Joannie

P.S Nothing personal to all those who love Portland!

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