Posts Tagged 'Portland'

Journal Entries: In These Shoes

Map of Oregon, Vodka Tonic

Map of Oregon state. Seattle, September 2007

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (5:25 AM at our apartment) — I WOKE UP THIS MORNING thinking about the fact that it was almost exactly one year ago today that I was loading up the car and heading down to Portland. I’d just graduated from college and had spent the previous month both in LA visiting friends and up in Seattle riding my bicycle on familiar streets, absorbing all the places I had missed while living in Wisconsin. I was confused as to the direction of my life, but not so concerned as to yet feel anxious. Things, however messy and uncertain, felt free.

It seems funny now to think that on the other side of the world (indeed, as I pen these very words) my parents are driving down in the same direction I myself was headed all those months ago. They’ll stop for breakfast at the Country Cousin, as I did, and watch the fog sweep its misty fingertips over the coastal hills as they drive out along Sunset Highway. Their final stop is Cannon Beach  — also the last leg of my own West Coast journey, as Nick and I came full circle before returning home.

Strangely, I can’t help feeling a bit envious of my parents. Seoul is in its last throes of summer, still hot and cacophonous. I want to take my wife somewhere calm and beautiful, where the air is all seawater and pine.

What I remember most about the trip last September was that it was lended a sense of momentousness, though not by any artificial attempts to make it so. Big things were shifting all around us, and driving south gave Nick and I the escape — the distance — we needed to sort it all out and become ourselves. Those four weeks lasted months and years. I will never forget the sunset at Capitola.

I must admit that I wish I could recapture something from that time, hold it now as I struggle with a new kind of confusion and this adjustment to the working life. It seems painfully ironic that despite being halfway around the globe, my current experience in some ways feel less adventuresome than my time in Portland, Oregon. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of perspective. Either way, I could use a good road trip.

Continue reading ‘Journal Entries: In These Shoes’

‘Where Bikes and Cars Collide’

TWO HORRIFIC AND FATAL collisions between large trucks and cyclists in Portland last month have put safety and awareness at the fore of many Oregonians’ minds, and prompted The Oregonian to create a useful interactive map of where crashes have taken place in the city between 2003 and 2006.

While Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country (and seeing the city by bike is definitely the best way to go), it pays to be aware of your surroundings – there are angry and inattentive people everywhere. I spent nearly a week in there on my bicycle, thankfully without incident, but certainly with a few inappropriate horn-honks.

If you’re traveling by bicycle, especially in an unfamiliar city, it helps to pick up a cycling map to find separate bike trails and low-traffic routes. Here’s where you can buy the one I used in Portland.

Safe travels.

Past the Nowheres of America

NICK ROLLED IN AROUND 1:30 p.m. at the train station in downtown Portland. Wearing a plain white t-shirt and shorts he looked happy as hell to be out of dodge – the past week had been rough. We picked up his bike from the checked luggage counter, threw it in the back of the car and then dipped out of the station parking lot, over the Burnside bridge and into a little Deadhead pub in Hawthorne for sandwiches and drinks. He ordered a double gin and tonic, I ordered a 12oz glass of beer. I was driving, I guessed.

Our bellies full of food and excitement, we blasted out towards Highway 26. About ten miles out we shifted to the 6, and finally onto the 101 Coastal Highway. Around us clouds crept over the pine-tree hills like fingers running through hair. We took the road fast, and corners even faster it seemed, ’cause we didn’t want to set up our tent in the dark. But as we plowed South the night fell, along with the fog, and we slowed our pace trying to see where the road was.

Just past the small town of Florence, Ore., there is Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park – and there were plenty of campsites to be had for a mere $17. We set up the tent by lamp and car headlights, staked it down and then jetted back into town for burgers at A&W. The guy taking our order says we might have to go out the backdoor after we eat. Why, I ask, what time do you guys close? “Nine o’clock, only probably not any more,” he says, understandably surly. It was 8:45. But we weren’t the only customers, and we were starving enough not to really care whether this guy got off a few minutes early.

We bought firewood, chips and beer and headed back to the campsite. Glistening stars above, we blew our outside world concerns into the embers of the fire. Three drinks each and a couple makeshift pillows was enough for us to knock out until the grey morning light. We had eggs and bacon at a little house-turned-diner called Pauline’s Place – a few genteel local couples eyeing our unshaved, unshowered appearances confusedly – before we were on the road again.

Nick and I marveled as we barreled down the 101 how much of the country is really just small towns and nowheres. Indian reservations and trees, trailers and coastline. Old town centers trainwrecking with Targets and Wal-Marts. As we sailed to the fringes of Eureka, CA, a couple scrungy guys sat with a sorry piece of cardboard reading, “Get us out of this shit hole.” All I could do was wish them luck.

We saw a curious number of groups of hitchhikers as we drove through Humboldt county – supposedly famous for it’s huge crops of marijuana. I felt like I was back in the 60s as we rolled past their dusty faces, back when the roads were filled with rucksack wanderers. But who were these kids? Where were they trying to get to?

Our destination the second night was Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and we got there just early enough to set up camp and enjoy the scenery before darkness fell. The trunks of the trees were massive, one base sometimes giving life to three or four separate trees. Just across from our site six guys in their thirties and forties rolled in on touring bicycles and set up camp – I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a wuss for driving. But cycling the West Coast would’ve been an entirely different kind of journey…it was enough to have our bikes for urban touring this trip.

We rose pretty early the next day (Nick feeling a bit hungover) and rolled out towards San Francisco. The redwood forest sprawled endlessly around us for miles and miles until we hit the grassy rolling hills that are so characteristic of northern California. Somewhere in between we paused just to soak it in – to take in a moment of stillness, of not driving. We stood there feeling entirely free and far away. We breathed. We belted up and took off.

(Next: San Francisco)

Welcome to Portland

IT WAS A LONG NIGHT. I tossed and turned in my shabby orange pup-tent as my neighbor snored like a chainsaw; about 4 a.m. I wondered whether I was crazy to have come to this city alone to sleep on the ground when I could be in the comfort of my own bed…

But with the morning came a new outlook – and (thank god) a cup of strong coffee. I’m staying at a hostel in the Hawthorne District, which is akin perhaps to Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Exploring downtown by bike has been great; today I scoped out Chinatown and had some time for introspection at the tea garden.

Traveling alone has its virtues and challenges. It’s not something I’ve done a whole lot of – while I’m more free to go and wander without worrying if my partner is having a good time, by and large I find myself wishing I had someone to share things with. I suppose the most difficult thing is realizing that the mental hardships that come with pushing myself out of my comfort zone have some value.

Anyway, enough deep thoughts – enjoy the photos!

view the rest on flickr.

On the Road Again

TRAVEL UPDATE: Things have been somewhat resolved, so I will be heading out tomorrow for Portland – but it will be solo for this leg. Nick will join me in Oregon next Monday and we’ll be heading down the coast from there. I’m honestly looking forward to a little personal escape; it’s been said that you’re most open to adventure when traveling by yourself, and I could use some time for introspection.

Photos and updates to follow.

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