Tuesday, September 11, 2012

DAY 21-- Portlandia

The house where I am renting an upstairs room is located in the Sellwood part of Portland.  It’s a neighborhood that has a small shopping haven which has a predominance of antique shops but there are a few wonderful restaurants in there too; as I discovered.  My gracious host, Jim, helped me with suggestions to local places and also directions to a biking/rec path that leads to a whole network of biking throughout the Portland area. 
Photos- The Sellwood area of Portland.

Portland is a Gold Medal city when it comes to being bike friendly and I have to say it is VERY friendly to bikes.  I took the path early in the morning and within 10 minutes and 5 miles I was in the heart of downtown Portland.  I saw several other cyclists, most of them, commuting on their way to work.  Most of the other cyclists had panniers on their bikes or loaded up backpacks; some even had various decorations on the top of their helmets. (So sorry I wasn’t faster with the camera.) 
Photo- Bike path being used by commuting cyclists with Portland skyline in background.

The main parts of the bicycle paths go right along the shoreline of the river that runs through the heart of downtown Portland.  It provides some wonderful scenery with the river, small boats, small marinas, bridges, and the city’s buildings all intermixed to give Portland its unique flavor. 
Photo- The sun above at one of the river path areas near downtown Portland.

Once I got to the downtown area, I went off the bike path and took various other bike friendly roads; most of them had a bike lane or a green lane.  I even traversed a couple of the bridges going on both sides of town.  I was amazed at how the cars were very accepting of bikes and I even had a few times I was in the wrong lane but the drivers were very patient with me.  Not at all like in SLC, where I would’ve been yelled at to get off the road along with a few choice profanities and possibly flipped off too. 
Photo- Green lanes in downtown Portland.
Bike traffic seems to have priority in this city. The bike paths were signed and told you where each off shoot went and they told you the distances to the next stop or destination.  There were even signal lights where it was just for cyclist to cross an intersection diagonally.  You would push a button on the sidewalk and they had the bike path painted through the intersection.  Just wait for the bike signal to turn green and you had right away for the whole intersection.  There were also areas where only bikes and buses were allowed in the downtown area. It was all rather mind blowing!

Photo- Signage along the bike paths.

Later I drove downtown to catch a free walking tour.  I would’ve been better off biking down to it than driving to it.  Warning- Portland is not friendly to car drivers and it can be frustrating to figure out how to get from point A to point B.  There are a combo of factors that make this so—bus and bike only road areas, one way streets, and light rail running down the center of road areas. 

Parking a car in downtown Portland can also be a real pain.  There’s not much street parking and of it much are designed for loading zones and car share vehicles.  Portland doesn’t seem to want you to bring your car to the downtown area at all.  Also, they have recently done away with the MAX’s (Portland’s Light rail & Bus system) free fare zone about 2 months ago.  I ended up finding a parking garage to park my car in for the deal of $9.95 for the whole day.

The Free Walking Tour in Portland; the Secrets of Portlandia (http://secretsofportlandia.com/ ) was a wonderful funny experience and I highly recommend it to anyone that comes to visit the city.  It starts everyday rain or shine from the front of the Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse.  The guide wears a bright green t-shirt and holds a Free Tour sign up.  He’s not hard to miss.  For about an hour and a half he takes you along the city telling you showing you landmarks and talking about all that makes Portland the very unique place that it is.  All along he tries out various bad jokes and puns.  Also, repeatedly using the one-liner of “…on a clear day you can see Mt. Hood…” among all of his other commentary.  Some of the jokes flop but some have you cracking up pretty good.  It’s a little like taking a city tour with a stand-up comedian and hecklers are welcome.  It’s an interactive fun. 
Photos- Free Walking Tour...

At the end of the tour, he stands off to the side and takes tips if you feel like it was worth the tour.  Most of the other city tour walks charge $20 and I’m betting they are not nearly as much fun.  What was even more fun about the whole thing was that at the end of the tour there were more people than what we started with.  People just joined up as we went along.  It’s well worth the $20 that I gave him, he also very willing to give tips on other things to do and where to eat in the city.

Next, I went to a “food court” in the downtown area.  It’s an open area parking lot that has been edged by these food carts that sell every kind of food imaginable.  It's like a little city of food carts that cover a block area. They are actually watched more closely by the food inspectors in Portland than the restaurants.  So thus they are safer to eat at and quite often are a better deal too.  I ordered some Thai food which there seems to be a lot of in Portland.  I had a wonderful pumpkin curry with rice. 

As I waited for my late lunch, I got to talking with another guy that was waiting for his food.  I ended up walking with him over two blocks where there was a city park we could sit down in to eat our lunches.  We visited while we ate and he gave me some suggestions for on my way to Mt. Hood.  While we were eating, I watched a homeless person start digging around in a trash can.  I made a comment and Tom, my lunch companion, said that’s Portland.  He said there was a Cop Shop over on the corner so the homeless would probably not act up or give us any problem. 

But the homeless in the area is a major problem.  They are on a lot of the corners in the downtown area by the river.  Quite often, they sleep between the river and the bike paths.  You’ll see them loaded down with their gear on bikes into the city in the mornings.  It’s sad.  Portland has the second highest unemployment rate in the country.  If you consider moving to the Portland area you should make sure you have a job first.

I walked around the city and took more pictures as I went.  I had hoped to go to the Portland Art Museum but they are closed on Mondays.  It seems like a great deal of places are closed on Mondays.  It’s like the equaling of Sundays in Utah.  Later on, when I was back in Sellwood I tried to go to a restaurant my host Jim had mentioned to me that was a 4 block walk.  But I found that it was closed on Sunday.  Instead I ended up going to a little Italian café about 5 blocks away called a Cena.  OMG!  The dessert I had at the end of a wonderful meal was to die for—Semifreddo; a frozen chocolate mousse with a warm with warm cherries!  SO Good! SO GOOD!  But I will definitely need to bike in the morning to make up for that one!


  1. Definitely have to put Portland on my list!

    1. Di-
      It is definitely worth a visit and there's SO much to do in the area it can be a bit overwhelming.