November 9, 2015

PNW Part 2: Portland

Oh man.  Portland was so much better/more than I expected it to be.  It's not like I wasn't looking forward to going or anything, Portland's actually a city that has interested me for a while, but I had such a wonderful time in Seattle that I didn't really want to leave.  Portland, however, held its own and then some.
I didn't leave Gig Harbor until 4.  Bix and I had a slightly nuts reunion (does this dog do anything any other way?) in which he straight up yelled at me for leaving him for a month or so in dog days and I apologized a million times and then he settled right back into the driving routine.  We swung through Vancouver to see Carrie, who was one of my favorite youth group leaders back in high school, and her husband and their two little dogs, which was super nice.  I've connected with really random people on this trip, people I haven't seen in years, and it's been really great to do so.
I had found a Couchsurf host in Portland who'd hosted over three hundred surfers, contacted him really last minute, and gotten an almost immediate response saying sure I could come.  So I did!  He has a huge house in southeast Portland, a beautiful old thing with crystal doorknobs and hardwood floors and high ceilings.  Bix and I got the room with the biggest bed (#priorities), and after Justin explained all the rules and showed us a zillion maps of Portland, we crashed early.

The next morning we were up and at 'em, because Blue Star donuts were calling our name.  Voodoo is the touristy place, but a couple of locals recommended Blue Star and I gotta say, they were pretty A+.  I got blueberry basil bourbon and Mexican chocolate cake and both of them were darn good, and there was absolutely no line, at least in the location on the northwesty side of Portland.

Next up was Powell's Bookstore.  I've never met a bookstore I didn't like, and I've been to a lot of bookstores, but I gotta say, Powell's was pretty top notch.  It takes up a whole block, so the inside is obviously enormous.  It's a little overwhelming, but I wound through the literature (scooped up a McCarthy and something by an author I didn't recognize) to the sci-fi (had to tell myself I didn't need a second copy of GoT just because I left it at home) to the psychology/business/religion to the travel (got a tad heart-eyed over a beeeeautiful book called Inside Tracks that has these gorgeous photos from Robyn Davidson's journey and from when they were filming the movie, this one's going on the Christmas list FO SHO) to the food/music/art to the YA (I think I wound up buying An Abundance of Katherines, finally).  It was practically a library-caliber bookstore, and I don't say that lightly.

It was Boone-ing when we left, aka misting hard enough to get you damp but not enough to get in the way of plans, so off we went to Hoyt Arboretum, where we completed a "two-hour" walk in forty-five minutes (high five, Bix! we were probably supposed to linger at the signs or something).  It would have been nicer on a prettier day, obvs, but they had maples and ash trees, magnolias, other kinds, ones we've got at home and ones that change color, which was a nice little nuzzle for a slightly homesick traveler.
And then the food trucks!  There's this PLACE in Portland, it doesn't really show up on Google maps but it's at 10th and Alder on the west side, and I have never seen so many food trucks in one place in my life, unless you count the fair.  Maybe.  Thai and Mexican and Egyptian and Greek and Chinese, grilled cheese and macaroni and soup, pasta, pizza, everything you could think of.  I got a nice fat veggie burrito and sat in the nearby "park" where Bixby thought about chasing pigeons but didn't do it.  The chicken training is paying off!
Then the clouds parted and the blue sky shone through and Bix and I went to Hawthorne Boulevard (the east side, Portland is confusing btw and city driving sux) because Justin had recommended it for costume shopping.  They had LOTS of shopping, costume and otherwise, including a pet store for Bix, where we stocked up on treats and had his nails clipped.  I found an apron and some stripey tights, so Alice is coming along nicely, and I did a really good job of not buying any shoes and a less good job of not buying other stuff.  They got some CUTE stores on Hawthorne.  (Is this fascinating yet?)

Ooh!  This is an exciting twist in the story.  So in Seattle, I'd gone to see the Durham-based band Bombadil, who I love very much and see pretty much whenever they play near Chapel Hill.  While I was eating my food truck burrito, they posted on Instagram that they were in Portland, so I said I was too, and they said: let's hang out!  And - drumroll - we did.  We got happy hour drinks at a place called the Observatory, where I panic-ordered an IPA (update: still don't like IPAs), and then because James lived in Portland for a while and knows the cool kid Portland spots, we went to Mt. Tabor and watched all the little city lights buzz around while the sky got darker.  We got tacos and drinks and went to an actual tiki bar (but in the Pacific Northwest, so I'm not sure if it REALLY counts) and it was so, so nice to hang out with them because a) they're cool, b) they sometimes say "y'all," and c) they're not creepy Tinderboys.  Winning all around.
I'd originally planned to just stay two nights in Portland, but I was having such a really lovely time and also didn't have a place to stay when I left that I asked Justin if I could hang out an extra night and I'm so, so glad he said yes because I got to do even more cool Portland things, aka exactly what Bombi James told me to do.  I ate lunch at Pine State Biscuits, where I got incredibly excited over the fact that they sold Cheerwine and then ordered lemonade instead and also ate my weight in cajun fries (worth it).
Then I peaced out of Portland proper (this is a cool thing people who don't live in North Carolina say, or maybe they do and I just never heard it) and went for a hike in the gorge.  The trail I did was called Angel's Rest, where the parking lot was up a little and the hike was up a lot.  It was beyond worth it.  The top overlooked the gorge, a tiny road with its tiny cars far below and the wide, wide river and the mountains on the other side.  I got lucky and had an absolutely beautiful blue sky day, and Bix and I sat up there for a good half hour, just looking and taking pictures and looking some more.
Conveniently near Angel's Rest was Edgefield Winery, where Bombadil was playing a show.  I went, of course, and it was in this funny little basement hallway with Bombadil at one end and the audience filling the edges of the hall.  I sat near the front and listened to them play for two hours, old songs and new ones, songs I don't remember hearing them play live before.  We all went to the restaurant afterwards and got drinks and food, and I had a raspberry ale milkshake that was out of this world.  The tots weren't bad either ;)
I left early the next morning, just after receiving an email that Pegasus Farm in California had an opening for a WWOOFer.  So that was all of Portland!  Books and shopping and trees and food and a whole lot of Bombadil.  Two thumbs up, Bridgetown.  I like you.