Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trip Report: Portland

Portland 2012

My brothers and I decided to take our parents to Portland for my mom's 70th birthday. This was the first family trip for a while, though unfortunately my youngest brother couldn't make it for private reasons. We arrived on Friday to the warmest I've ever seen a pacific northwest city. It was well into the 90s. We walked over to Powell's Books, the biggest bookstore in the Western Hemisphere.
From Portland 2012
I'd been to Powell's before, but this time I was disappointed. The maps section used to be full of used old maps that were great finds for cyclists. This time, I couldn't even find a decent map of Austria. I looked for a The Danube Cycleway and couldn't find it, despite it being easy to locate on Amazon. Clearly, the days of big bookstores being useful are over. My father did find a book in the meager Chinese section that was well priced, so he bought it.
From Portland 2012
We then headed over to Deutsches Brewery for some beer tasting and dinner. The beer was ok, the dinner was so-so. My brother finally made it over to the brewery and we all had a family dinner, and then visited the Powell's bookstore again for a short browse. It was warm still when we headed back to the hotel.
From Portland 2012
The next day started with breakfast at Mother's Bistro, which is apparently a Portland institution. It was not bad, but nothing to write home about. We then walked about the Portland waterfront. We found the Oregon Martime Museum, which was actually a paddleboat, but it was closed. Walking away from the waterfront, we wandered into the Portland Saturday Market, which was actually opened both on Saturday and Sunday, but wasn't opened early enough for breakfast.
From Portland 2012
From Portland 2012
We then took the train to various city parks, which were all linked together: the Garden of Solace Vietnam memorial, the Hoyt Arboretum, the Japanese Garden (admission charged), and the Rose Garden.
From Portland 2012
Of the lot, the Japanese Garden and the Garden of Solace were most impressive, but weren't really much to write home about. What did surprise us was that the buses servicing the park did not run on Saturdays! That seems such a bizarre decision that I can't imagine what went on in the heads of the city department that considered this move. We ended up with a long hike back to the MAX line at the end, having wandered far away from it. We hopped onto the Max line back to the Saturday Market to pick up some food-truck lunches which looked better than they tasted.
From Portland 2012
After lunch, we visited REI and the Keen stores just in case there were any sales that would make the 0% Oregon sales tax worth while. There weren't, so we went back to the hotel and then headed over to see Premium Rush, having dinner at the theater. After dinner, my brother and I hopped over to Voodoo Donuts to see what the fuss was all about. Unfortunately, while the lines were unbelievable, the donuts weren't.
The next day, we rented a car and drove over to the falls on the Columbia Gorge. The gorge didn't seem like much of one, more like riverbed with a few peaks nearby. We hiked Mahkeena Falls and Multnomah falls in overcast conditions, which was ideal for a walk. The trails weren't particularly crowded, but there were clearly enough visitors to justify the paved trail.
From Portland 2012
After the hiking, we felt the need for lunch, and drove on to Hood River to the Full Sail Brewery & Pub, which would provide the best meal of the trip! The food was excellent (including the french dip steak sandwich), and the beers tasty. We then visited Cathederal Ridge winery for some wine tasting, but apparently the wines of the region weren't as impressive as the micro-brews.
From Portland 2012
From Portland 2012
We then switched sides of the river for the drive back, stopping by every so often to admire the railroad tracks (which had great views of windsurfers and paragliders in what was a very windy region) and parks with names like "Drano Lake." We then took a stop at the Bonneville Dam just in time for the last ranger-guided tour of the day.
From Portland 2012
I can heartily recommend the Hydropower station tour. Not only do you get to see the power generators in person, you get to walk on them, and if you're lucky enough to be there when the publicly exhibited generators are generating power (we weren't), you get to look down through the windows and see the stators and shafts moving. I was impressed by the service intervals for these machines (4 years between service), and how slowly they turned (only 60-70 rpms) given the amount of power they were generating.
From Portland 2012
After the tour, don't miss the fish locks. We were lucky to arrive at the start of the Salmon run, so we got to see quite a few rather large fish in the locks.

We got back to Portland and had dinner at Karam, a Lebanese restaurant. The lamb dishes were great, but don't order any beef there. It's cooked way too dry.
From Portland 2012
On Monday, we had breakfast at the Bijou Cafe, which served an excellent breakfast. We then headed to the airport on the public transit system and back home uneventfully.

Conclusion: Portland physically most reminded me of Bordeaux, with the small size of the downtown area and the big central river running across it. The food, of course, doesn't compare to Bordeaux, and neither does the wine. The beer, however, is significantly much better than French beer, and if you're there, do drive out to Full Sail Brewery because it's great food and excellent beer. Do take the time to do the brewery tour if you can manage it.

Would I go out of my way to see Portland again? Probably not. But it's a fine weekend trip if you've never been there before. Portland's a bike friendly city, but personally, it's hard to beat the Bay Area for cycling goodness.
Post a Comment