After our not all positive first impressions we were ready to give Portland the benefit of the doubt this morning. We were up at a more normal time and wandered into breakfast. The scrambled eggs today were fine although they had probably been left under the hot lamp a tad too long. The Hotel also lost a few points for having the breakfast designed to feel like a cheap canteen though.
We had read about traffic problems getting to downtown Portland so decided not to risk driving instead opting for the park & ride on the TriMet. We were less than a mile from the Expo Centre where we could do so. The signage for the car park was woeful and really summed up Portland itself. It is not geared up for visitors. The train was waiting and we easily bought $5 day passes from the machine. It was a quite pleasant ride to downtown although the suburbs were rather run down.
The train filled up as we went along. I thought it would be used by commuters instead it seemed to be the preferred mode of transports for all of Portlands weirdos and eccentrics. Indeed as the day went on I am not sure we came across anyone who didn’t fit into that category. It really says something when Karen & I are the most normal in a City.
We had planned to do the Free Walking Tour of Portland which started on the steps of the Pioneer Courthouse, and so got off the train at Pioneer Square. This is called ‘The Living Room’ of Portland and is just a Community Square where they hold lots of events. Imagine the centre of Anglia Square.
We met up with Erik who was taking the tour just before 11am. He was a nice chap who is proud of the number of awards he has won for his tours. He was good but not that good. There cannot be much competition for tour guides in Portland. Although to be fair he didn’t have much to work with. There just isn’t that much history or interesting things to see and talk about. When a 15 minute stop is about a drinking water fountain you know he is trying to pad it out. There was probably about 30 other people doing the tour, including one really strange family who looked as though they had been born and bred in Suffolk. The youngest son called Johnny was particularly annoying and Erik the guide did well not to drop him down a manhole.
The best part of the tour was the ending where we finished at the Worlds smallest Park. Not that the park itself was good, just the ridiculous true story behind it involving Lepracaums. Without wishing to repeat it, search for it on Google.
By now it had started to drizzle so we sort out shelter and caffeine in the nearest Starbucks. As we mused over our drinks we decided that our first impressions of Portland were correct. Dull & dreary - and they were the best bits. It is an ugly City with few if any redeeming features. It has no identity and is struggling to find one. It is wet most of the year and on the whole has little going for it. They have the a motto of Keep Portland weird (and even that is stolen from Austin, Texas), I would ask why? I would they change it to Make Portland Normal.
The tourist blurb mentions lots of interesting places to eat and food trucks to try. But is that an identity? Will people travel here just to eat? It also has the worst homeless problem I have seen anywhere in the US. On some streets there were dozens of them. Rather than trying to ‘Keep Weird’ perhaps they should try to address that.
After feeling refreshed from our drinks we thought we would walk about and see if we could find anything else interesting. We went in a few shops and then had shared some lunch at a place called PotBellys. Obviously they wouldn’t serve me, so Karen ordered one sandwich meal which we split between us.
The highlight of the day was when we walked to find Powells bookshop which is the largest shop of new and used books in the world. It was brilliant. I could have stayed all day. Karen was fed up after a few minutes so I bought her a coffee in their cafe and left texting whilst I went for another wander. I have never seen a shop where used books are shelved with new ones. There were so many old and interesting books that I had forgotten all about. I restricted myself to purchasing one second hand book from the 1960’s by Leonard Wibberley (author of The Mouse that Roared).
After this we caught the train back to the Park & Ride. This time the train was even fuller of strange people all of which made Karen feel uncomfortable.
Back in the Hotel we began to seriously contemplate moving a day early from Portland as there was nothing else we wanted to do here. We thought about visiting a place called Seaside but that would mean a 190 mile round trip from Portland. What was also troubling us was that the next place on our itinerary was Crater Lake National Park. This is a 5 hour drive away. However the weather for the day we are due to visit or even a day earlier is due to be atrocious. Temperature of 9c (which we could put up with), but lots of rain and a high chance of zero visibility of the lake due to cloud cover. This would defeat the purpose of the visit entirely and mean hours driving for nothing. I could not come up with a viable plan to get there on a day when we could see it. It is the deepest lake in The USA set in the caldron of an old volcano. It is also quite high up meaning that any bad weather impacts it so you cannot see it. It was supposed to be one of the highlights for us of this trip. We didn’t know what to do,
Whilst we sat planning in our room Karen heated the remains of her meal from The Cheesecake Factory and also ate the takeout cheesecake. We decided to have a break and get me some food from the Walmart we could almost see from our Hotel window. This was the worst Walmart ever. It had homeless laying outside and it seemed inside as well. The staff appeared to be emptying the shelves of food and after a couple of minutes we just left. Instead we went to a diner next to the Hotel called Elmer's. I had The Dungeness Crab Egg Benedict which was really quite tasty.
We then met back to the Hotel where we made the decision to change our itinerary for the next 2 days. I went down to reception and cancelled our third night in Portland and then emailed the motel near Crater Lake. Both of these we were pleased to be able to cancel without incurring any charges. We then booked for tomorrow night at Lincoln City and the following night at Crescent City both on the Pacific Coast Highway on the coast. After a lot of dithering I felt better for making and acting upon the decision we made. Lets hope we enjoy the new route, only time will tell.