Hello, Portland! by Car and Good-Bye, Portland! by Rail

It was next to a Union 76 station, along Interstate 5 in Orland, that I joined my girlfriend, and her two dogs, on a Pacific Northwest road trip.  She was moving from Southern California to Portland, Oregon, and I was lucky enough to go along as they trekked the last of their belongings to their new homestead.  The car ride up, although lasting approximately 10 1/2 hours, was filled with a lot of reminiscing and tons of laughter.

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We stopped in Ashland for a quick trip to Shop’n Kart… mind blown. I found this story about an inspiring young girl who is standing up for a wonderful cause- to end child slavery.  I encourage you to learn more about the Make a Stand company… it was the whole reason we stopped in Ashland.  After hearing the company’s story I wanted to support the cause and share with Isaac how small goals can lead to tremendous change… I wanted to buy their organic, all-natural lemonade.  Problem: it’s sold nowhere near Chico.  Not to fear, Ashland’s Shop’n Kart did carry the lemonade and I knew I was driving through there in a few days.  Mandatory stop #1: Ashland.

We no sooner got back on the road that we decided stopping for dinner would be a good idea since who knows what else lie ahead on I-5.  A quick Google search yielded a wonderful recommendation:  Jasper’s Cafe.  We were NOT disappointed in the least.  We shared a Smokey & The Bandit extreme gourmet burger and a large order of sweet potato fries (suggestion: unless you’ve been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and haven’t sunk your teeth into anything but PowerBars for the last week, a small order of fries would be plenty for 2 people).  The menu is pretty impressive!  And if you’re into exotic meats, Jasper’s has you covered there too.  We’re fairly casual people and opted for the good ol’ Angus patty.  Predictable and safe.

The next day we ventured over to the coast to visit Tillamook, Oregon.  And when I say we visited Tillamook, Oregon, what I really mean is we were in search of cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

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We looked at cheese.  We sampled cheese.  We split a good old-fashioned grilled cheese.  And then we bought cheese.  But how did you keep it cold? you ask.  Well, we went across the street to Fred Meyer and bought a Styrofoam ice chest and dry ice.  It took us a little longer to get out of the small city of which is Fred Meyer.  Mainly because I kept turning in circles, completely in awe of what I was seeing.  And the one thing I just could. not. get. past. was the idea I could buy oranges AND diamonds within the same 2 feet of store floor space.  I mean, seriously?!?!  Whodda thunk?

Oranges and Diamonds

So after I came out of my Fred Meyer shock (I’m convinced there’s such a diagnosis), we headed for Bay City in search of some fresh fish (correction: She was in search of the fish, I merely wanted to see the ocean).   We ended up at Pacific Oyster (aka The Fish Peddler) and were greeted by a gazillion oyster shells and a pretty setting sun…

IMG_2593Bay City OR

At one point it was brought up that we needed to try an oyster (for the record: I wasn’t the one who brought it up).  And for some reason, I agreed.  Let’s do this!, I thought.  And so we did…

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Notice the level my cup was filled… that wasn’t by accident.  On this day we added “Eat an oyster” to our bucket lists and then promptly crossed it off.  Done.  Never again.

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We survived the oyster experience and can now confidently say “I do NOT like oysters”.  To be honest, I don’t get the point of oysters.  And yes, I’ve tried them.

My third day visiting was spent exploring the Max Light Rail and downtown Portland.  We hit up Cartlandia first.  Ordered some savory crepes and hand cut fries and ate them in the Blue Room Bar, protected from the cold and relentless wind.  The food was great.  The drink was needed.  And the company was enjoyable.  I enjoyed every minute of it, as illustrated by this mostly empty picture.  (Not shown: my fab friend and the funny bartender.)

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Did I mention already that it was wickedly windy on this particular day?  It was outrageous!  But we hung in there fairly well.  We walked through Powell’s City of Books, mostly with our jaws dropped in disbelief.  After, we took a nice brisk walk in search of the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, and because my map app makes all of Portland look hip and non-threatening, we were incredibly surprised when we stumbled upon some strip clubs… oh, sorry, I meant “Gentlemen Clubs”.  Three nice fellas even took the time to ask us if we were Spyce Club dancers.  “Aw, shucks boys.  We’re just normal girls.” *Giggle. Giggle.* (For the record, mom, I really just ignored them and continued walking, taking note to never reserve a hotel room in the surrounding area.)

Once we got to Voodoo Doughnuts we were totally over the novelty of eating a doughnut at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  We checked the place out and ventured on… swearing to try a different doughnut place the next day.  Which we did- Blue Star Donuts.  The variety is just intriguing enough to not come across as trying too hard to be outrageous.  In short: the donuts were delish!  And some made it into my carry-on for my peeps back home.

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After sampling some fine doughnut cuisine, meandering the Pearl District and stopping into Powell’s Books one last time, I arrived at Union Station where I was to catch the 2:20pm Pacific Coast train and head home.  Only the train was delayed a few hours.  No biggie- I had the pleasure of sitting next to a published author who commutes to Eugene twice a week to teach Creative Writing classes.  She was fun.  After she left the nice folks at Amtrak decided not to seat anyone next to me for the remainder of the trip.  Thank you, Amtrak!  You da best!

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It had been a while since I took a lengthy train ride.  The last time was in high school when I refused to get onto an airplane to go to Bend, Oregon to visit family.  My parents are the best- they reserved 2 private bedrooms and we coasted in style.  This time I was slummin’ it.  As I sat in my Upper Reserved Coach seat, I really got a good taste of the company I was in.  For the most part the people around me were really mellow and polite (with exception of the man who insisted on speaking loudly to whom I can only assume is a new female love interest… he made awkward pillow talk comments and I think I caught him giggling once or twice.)  The train is filled with interesting humans. And no, I’m not omitting myself from this title.  But seriously, the train is like being stuck in the elevator of a 50-story building that houses everything from AARP offices to Struggling Musicians United and Fear of Flying Anonymous.  You really get the taste of the rainbow on the train.  There’s that strange “no eye contact” rule that seems to be in place, just like in elevators, and everyone seems to be headed somewhere different, even if they get off at the same stop as you.  I found myself intrigued at how we tend to set up social parameters for how we must behave in potentially awkward situations.  Here I was, literally surrounded by hundreds of other people, and I felt completely alone.  So I did what any rational thinking traveler would do: I popped in the ear buds and dozed off to a multitude of TED Talks (I hope my subconscious was able to retain some of what I heard!?!?)

Finally, at 6:15am, our train slowly pulled into Chico while I wrestled with my luggage which had somehow been shoved to the far back of the rack and covered in others’ bags.  Oh well!  I was home now… and my husband was waiting for me with a warm Starbucks in hand.  I’m a lucky lady, indeed.

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