Portland, Oregon – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 16 – A Morning in Oregon and a Long Trip Home

Our final morning on the west coast started with a drive around downtown Portland where we stopped at the Union Station rail terminal. Union Station currently serves as an Amtrak station located near Old Chinatown in Portland, a classic old building complete with a 150′ tall Romanesque Revival clock tower. In 1948 classic neon signs were added, reading “Go by Train” on the northeast and southwest sides and “Union Station” on the northwest and southeast sides.

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As we drove about the city the thing that surprised us most about Portland was the number of homeless people. We saw the homeless in every corner of the city and sometimes “tent cities” and panhandlers.

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While still downtown we decided to check out Voodoo Doughnuts but the line was outside and wrapped around the block; I guess a lot of others had the same idea. Voodoo Doughnuts is known worldwide for specialty donuts and the quirky shapes and names of their products. This doughnut shop was also featured on the Food Channel.

We skipped the donuts and slipped by an art piece for Zoobomb Bikes at 13th and Stark Streets of a sculpture of small bikes mounted to a pole. I assumed it refers to the bike club that has been hauling absurd varieties of bicycles up to the zoo and hurtling down Washington Park’s steep hills every single Sunday night for the past 10 years.

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For our final stop in Portland we drove into the hills of neighborhood homes that have great views of the city or the mountains, interestingly finding the best spot in a small cemetery looking out at the snowy peak of Mt. St. Helens.

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We crossed the Columbia River again to go to Washington just to explore and use the extra time until it was time for us to get to the airport. After dropping off the rental car to Thrifty, the shuttle took us to the Portland airport.

The baggage drop off with Delta was a hassle even though I had checked our luggage online. The attendant asked us to recheck our bags at the kiosk while he flirted with the young girl ahead of us, smiling and saying ‘oh your bag weighs 55 pounds, that’s ok’. When it was our turn to check in with our luggage, one of the suitcases was slightly over the 50 pound limit. Our 55 pound suitcase was about to cost us an extra $100 for the extra 5 pounds. This took me straight to angry and annoyed that the attendant allowed the girl before us slip by the extra weight limit fee.

So we shuffled clothes and items from one bag to the other. Once I finished repacking, I dropped the bag onto the scale only to find that once more the bag was overweight. We finally got it worked out but not before the attendant asked me to not slam the bag on the scale this time. So we made it through security and into the concourse where we ate lunch at the Rogue Restaurant. We were in no hurry since our flight was set to leave at 7 pm.

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The flight from Portland to Phoenix took two and one-half hours. It was a smooth flight most of the way until we flew into cloud cover lasting about a half hour. We were surprised to see the urban sprawl of Phoenix lit from above. My last visit to Phoenix was the opposite expecting a much larger city; but then that was more than ten years ago. We landed with a thud and walked into a nearly empty airport. It was difficult trying to find food and we were very hungry because we missed dinner. We had to settle for two cookies and a bottle of water then had to run to our gate for our connecting flight back to Columbus.

Our red-eye flight to Columbus was quiet given that most passengers tried to sleep. I was unable to sleep so I spotted lights of the cities along the way. As we approached Indiana, dawn surfaced with varying colors on the horizon. Yellow first appeared and a line of pink, then orange and more pink with a hint of blue the farther we flew east. We hovered over Ohio and the sun rose a gold and orange layer but I could still see the line of yellow and pink behind the plane in the distance as it hung at the horizon. I gazed at the sunlight as it grew brighter and more colorful from my 39,000 foot seat. The sun popped up over the horizon and it was just as magnificent as the other wonderful sights of this trip.

We continued on toward Columbus in a layer of clouds but still able to see the patches of farmland in a quilt-like pattern. The clouds were interesting in the tufted cottony stratum floating in the sky, when at last; our plane broke through the clouds landing at 6:30 a.m. Columbus time.  Two tired people emerged from the plane and climbed into the car to head home to end another excellent adventure.

Portland, Oregon – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 15 – Columbia River Gorge & An Evening in Portland

Our warm, bright Saturday morning found us driving to the historic Columbia River Highway east of Portland. Our first stop was at the Vista House, an observatory at Crown Point, which also serves as a memorial to Oregon pioneers. The site, on a rocky promontory, is 733 feet above the Columbia River on the south side of the Columbia River Gorge.

The domed building built in 1918 is basically a 64-foot wide and 55 foot high rotunda made of sandstone and restored to its original features in 2005. The interior is octagonal in an art nouveau style and marble is extensively used inside with brass fixtures. The interior of the dome was bronze lined with decorative stained glass window. The vista house was well named providing an excellent viewpoint of the Columbia River. The day of our visit was very windy so that white caps were seen on the river.

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The historic highway offered striking scenery as we progressed but we soon stopped at a series of waterfalls; Sheppard’s Dell Falls, where a short path led us to the waterfalls; Bridal Veil Falls was our next stop for a hilly half mile hike to the tiered falls; Wahkeena Falls followed for our next half-mile hike to this 242-foot waterfall that does not directly plunge to the ground but rather, has a more subtle cascading flow.

These falls have been featured in numerous travel guides and in photography books. The Wakeena Falls name is a native Yakama tribe meaning most beautiful.

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Finally we stopped at Multnomah Falls, the highest and most powerful falls on this highway. The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls of 69 feet, with a gradual 9 foot drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is given as 620 feet.

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Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. Underground springs from Larch Mountain are the year-round source of water for the waterfall, but the spring runoff from the mountain’s snow and rainwater add during the other seasons. A trail to Benson Footbridge, allowed us to cross onto the bridge at 105 feet above the lower cascade.

We continued on the trail to the first point past the bridge where a couple with their mastiff stood. The dog was the center of attention and was very friendly. We made our way down the trail and then onto a path on the opposite side that led upwards hoping to reach the top of the falls.

Other hikers said it was a long trail and so we hiked down to drive back to Vista House. The observatory was now open for the day so that we could walk inside to see the restored interior. Inside we saw photos of Crown Point in 1912 before Vista House was built.

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We decided to drive 14 miles to Larch Mountain, an extinct volcano with an elevation of 4,055 which has a view of five mountains. It was a nice hike up the hill trail to Larch Mountain vista for a view of five different elevations:  the outstanding view of the nearby Cascade Range volcanoes of Mount Hood 11,250 ft., Mount Adams 12,280 ft., Mount Jefferson 10,495 ft., Mount Rainier 14,409 ft., and Mount St. Helens 8,366 ft. We could also see the tops of the Three Sisters which is part of the Cascade Range whereby each peak tops 10,000 ft.

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From the pinnacle of Sherrard Point on Larch Mountain we saw the most stunning outdoor view of all time. Standing at the mountain summit presented a panorama of five mountains that I doubt could ever be seen anywhere else. There we stood with a 270 degree view of snow-capped mountains as I pivoted to see mountains and trees of earthly beauty without taking another step.  We left the park to get lunch at Shirley’s Tippy Canoe. Lunch was satisfying as we sat on a great deck and patio still thinking about the gorgeous view of all those mountains.

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After a short break at the hotel, we walked downtown. Dinner was at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, unfortunately, the Penguins lost to the Sharks 3-2.

After the game we walked to nearby Third Street to see the illuminating rose parade.  The official name of the event is the Starlight Parade which continues a longtime festival tradition from the early 1900s when illuminated floats built on electric trolley cars made their way through the city on trolley tracks. Today, participants light up the night with creative floats along a 2.25-mile route through downtown Portland.

The parade began at 9 p.m. where thousands of people lined the streets awaiting the start of the parade. The Portland police kicked off the parade with a theme on community. Several neighborhood communities entered floats.  A high school band wearing strings of lights and expertly made floats marched past us. I believe we saw a high school band with an Ohio flag also. The only other time I had seen an illuminated parade was when our family went to Disney World and this reminded me of that but was far more extended.

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The parade lasted one and one-half hours and when the last float passed the sanitation trucks followed. The throngs of people politely pushed their trash into the street for volunteers to throw the trash into the garbage truck and street cleaners rolled behind spraying down and brushing the street immediately afterwards.  As the garbage truck moved in the procession an announcement from the sanitation crew roared “Please move away from the curb, Sanitation is cleaning the streets for America’s cleanest parade. It was all very amusing with this claim and process. The Starlight Rose Parade proudly claimed it was the cleanest parade in America, with no candy or other items were being thrown from the floats. It was an interesting last evening of our Spring 2016 Road Trip.

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Portland, Oregon – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 14

Our 15th day of this road trip started out in Astoria, Oregon at the amusingly named Pig N Pancakes provided breakfast for us before going to the Maritime Museum to watch the ships on the river. Frame by a coast guard pilot ship sitting in the parking lot of the museum, the interior appears to displayed a coast guard rescue ship in the front window but we saw no more than that of the museum since it was closed until later that day and we were ready to move on. Docked behind the museum was a ’boutique cruise ship’ and a coast guard ship with crew at attention saluting the U.S. flag while “reveille” played over the speaker for first call. It seemed a bit late in the day for this at 8:30 a.m.

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It was time to refill the car with gas and in Oregon there is a law that bans car owners to fuel their own car. New Jersey is the only other state that has this same law. All gas stations have attendants who pump gas for you. It seemed very odd and old fashion so I always get out of the car to talk to the attendant each time while in Oregon because I don’t know what else to do.

We made it to Portland and found the Japanese Gardens despite the wacky directions given by our GPS system, entering the gardens by wandering the paths in Washington Park. For a wonderful hour we walked up and down steps and crossing bridges presenting ferns, azaleas, moss that completely covered hills and beds that looked like short grass.

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Temples, arches and monuments decorated the Japanese gardens as we ambled along the path lined with a decorative fence of red cedar and/or bamboo artistically carved and tied together. Water flowed among the paths to verdant shrubs and trees, finally leading to a Zen garden. The Zen garden was made of a few large dark rocks set in a floor of small white pebbles in perfect concentric circles. It was very peaceful sitting on a bench staring at the Zen garden wondering how each pebble was arranged so flawlessly.

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The highlight of the Japanese Gardens is the bonsai area where a few well sculpted trees were on display. A coastal redwood, the tallest tree in the world, was clipped to a three foot potted work of art. Bonsai means tray planting as these art forms live in shallow trays and need styled and restyled over time.

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Ryan Neil created his own American bonsai style for this exhibit. The setting on the patio of the Japanese house at the gardens in view of Mt. Rainier offered a beautiful atmosphere.  The bonsai were each framed in a custom modern wooden structure. Maple trees, red cedar, pine and juniper were used in the other bonsai art displayed.

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We continued onward through the park to see the rose garden. Portland is known as the City of Roses. The rows and rows of roses covered a large section of the park. There was a test garden, a master rose garden, and many more rose gardens of varieties, size, and color.

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Visitors from around the world were there to see the exceptional bright colorful flora. Another area of the park had a statue of Sacajawea and a tribute column for Lewis and Clark for their journey to the Pacific Ocean.

The Kimpton River Hotel near the harbor was our hotel of choice for Portland. While the hotel was very nice hotel, it turned out that our room faced the windows of the next wing of rooms. Oh well, we had mostly beautiful views on this whole trip and we spent little time in our room, heading back out to the riverfront that border the hotel.

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Soon we were on the streets of Portland exploring the city on foot, exploring the central business district, stopping for lunch at Joe’s Burgers. After lunch we did some shopping, going to the home store for Columbia outerwear. To finish our downtown walking tour we went to Pioneer Courthouse Square where the city placed hundreds of 4-inch pots of flowers on the square to make a greenspace in the urban hard space. We sat in the lounge chairs at the square enjoying a warm sunny day of 88 degrees. The humidity was low and the weather felt perfect.

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The highlight of the square was a visit to the Portland tourist bureau information center, where we met Arnie, who was extremely helpful in giving us ideas for things to see and do in the city  as well as recommendations for a day trip up the Columbia River Valley to the east of Portland.

After a brief stop back at the hotel to search Tripadvisor for somewhere to eat, we made dinner reservation for Higgins Restaurant and Bar on Broadway Street where we had an excellent dinner is what could only be described as a Portlandia like restaurant we had salmon and steak with water chestnuts and potato au gratin.

Finally we spent the sunset sitting on the hotel roof deck for a while sipping wine and eating a small appetizer. It was such a lovely day that we went for another walk along the harbor’s boardwalk and stopped for ice cream. The ice cream was not as good as Handel’s but the atmosphere was great on this charming evening.

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