Friday October 1st, 2010 21:05 Portland

Navigating my way through the airport, I made my way to the attached MAX light rail station. I bought a pass from their machine and headed over to board. As I looked down at my pass, I noticed there was no magnetic strip. Walking onto the train there was no one to show your ticket to. I thought, maybe they’re waiting for you when you get off. Yeah! That makes sense. Several stops later, I got off and looked around. Not a single TriMet employee. It appeared that I had just bought a ride on the honor system.

Crossing over the highway and walking a few blocks past one-two-three homeless dudes (one of which was navigating about while sitting in a wheelchair “rowing” himself along with a cane in each hand). “Interesting…” I thought as I turned the corner and made it down a few blocks to the only hotel I’d be staying at during this trip. All my friends have been incredible in providing me a place to stay for the night. But I was kind of excited at the idea of a nice quiet room with my own queen sized bed, towels I didn’t have to clean and of course not having to clean up after. The Thriftlodge wasn’t spectacular, but who’d expect a place called Thriftlodge to be?

My stomach rumbled and I wanted a meal but I didn’t give myself one. Instead, I made a dinner out of dessert. Stopping by a place that has earned a reputation for delicious treats and that place is Voodoo Donuts. A bacon maple bar, grape-ape and cup of coffee later, I was full. I won’t lie, I did feel disgusting after consuming all that sugar but hell, it was worth it.

When telling my friend Brian about my plans for this trip. He suggested since I didn’t know too many people in Portland, that I get together with his friend Jason while I was there. Jason was an Detroit ex-pat living in Portland with his girlfriend Annie. The two of them came and picked me up from my lovely hotel and we headed over to a couple bars for the evening. The first of which called the Lucky Labrador where we had a couple pints and talked about our friends in Detroit, the west coast vs. the midwest and things to do in the area. We then moved onto the Green Dragon, a brewpub with 49 taps. There was a trio at the bar playing Drinking Jenga, yelling and making a lot of noise. The people lover inside me couldn’t resist to yell back. A few minutes later one of the girls playing came over to me and said “yeah, were playing this game and since you were yelling back, I figured you could help me out.” She showed me the piece and written on it was “Give a stranger a titty twister.” I smiled and straighted the t-shirt I was wearing out. “I’ll be gentle!” she said. She wasn’t.

Being a Monday, Jason and Annie had to work the next morning so I had them drop me off at a bar that Carrie, another Detroiter (and Chex Mix queen) visiting Portland was at. Stepping into the doorway, the bouncer politely asked me for the $12 cover. I politely responded “fuck that” and walked back in the direction of my hotel.  I then stopped into the lovely establishment across from my hotel for a nightcap before heading to bed. Out 0f paranoia and a conversation had earlier that night, I scoured the room for bed bugs. Finding none, I eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, based on numerous recommendations, I had breakfast at Doug Fir then headed next door to the Jupiter Hotel to rent a bike. The bike was a heavy 3-speed cruiser, not my first choice, but it would do. I headed across the Burnside bridge and was greeted by the “Made in Oregon” sign. On the other side of the bridge was a long line of people. My first thought was they were obviously in line for something, perhaps concert tickets? Until I caught a whiff. This wasn’t a line for anything! It was like mecca for hobos. I started coming to some conclusions and started generating marketing material for the city’s tourism department. “Portland a city of hobos and hipsters”, I could see that on a billboard. I strolled through the quiet, city realizing that its kinda of small. I started hitting some hills and well, it wasn’t easy but I got to my destination, Washington Park.

Washington Park was gorgeous. I locked my bike up to a street post and wandered into the first entrance. After walking about half a mile, I accidentally stumbled across a Holocaust Memorial. I spent a few minutes there and kept moving onto the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden was gorgeous. There were rows and rows of differently kinds of rosebushes on a number of levels (going downhill) and a little amphitheater. I took a bunch of photos, including one of this awesome squirrel. I then made my way up to the Japanese Garden. The Japanese Garden was pretty spectacular. It is said to be the only authentic Japanese Garden outside of Japan. Awe-struck, I wandered the gardens with my camera in hand.

The previous night, Jason and Annie suggested that I check out the view from Council Crest Park. I suggested I would bike there and they kind of snickered at me. I figured it would be a little uphill, but I’m a champion! Google Maps informed me that it was 4 miles away. 4 miles? Thats nothing! Was I in for a treat. An hour, four painful miles and one sweat drenched shirt later, I managed to push that heavy ass bike up to the top. Nor did I regret it one bit! The view was incredible and I could clearly see Mount Hood. I snapped some photos, but they really didn’t capture what you could see from up there. The ride back was hilarious, I didn’t have to pedal even once. I was just coasting and braking until I got to downtown.

Being a fan of Rogue. I made it a point to pop into their brewpub, the Rogue Public House for an appetizer and a pint before dinner. I ordered my favorite beer which is their Hazelnut Brown Nectar and a bacon appetizer. The appetizer was just four strips of tasty, tasty bacon.  The beer however, Unbelievable! I had never had Hazelnut Brown Nectar on tap and it was so good it could make a grown man cry! I headed back to the block my hotel was on, dropped off my bike and then took a quick shower before heading to dinner. I wanted to treat myself to a gourmet meal for my (then) upcoming birthday and was told the place to do so was Le Pigeon. Le Pigeon is  a tiny place. It has a few tables which are reservation only and a bar of 10 seats for those without reservations. The best part of sitting at the bar is that behind the bar is their tiny kitchen, letting you watch as the chefs prepare everything! My meal consisted of a raddichio salad, fried cod with a puff pastry and piece of honey bacon apricot bread topped with maple ice cream. Easily the best $42 I’ve spent in a long time!

They day had really worn me out, I walked back to my hotel and took a nap for an hour. When I awoke, Jason and Annie came and picked me up and took me to Horse Brass Pub for a pint. In a discussion the previous night, I was talking about how excited I was to get some poutine in Vancouver. It turns out there is a street car food vendor in Portland that sold also had poutine! We made our way to a “pod” which was an empty parking lot until a bunch of street food trailers and picnic tables moved in permanently. There was a pizza place, a Mexican place, a creperie and last but not least, Potato Champion. We ordered a couple poutines and ate them as we listened to the creperie blast Ratatat throughout the pod. The poutine wasn’t that great but I was hungry and it hit the spot.

I awoke the next morning, packed my bags and walked down the street to Bunk Sandwiches for breakfast. Nothing like walking into a sandwich shop for breakfast at 10am to hear hip-hop blasting and seeing “Free Lil’Wayne! He’s only guilty of being great!” written on the chalkboard under the menu. Afterwards, I checked out of my hotel and then took a bus downtown, stopping into Backspace, which was a PC repair place/cybercafe to spend the next hour sipping coffee and working on my blog. With another hour or so to kill before I had to catch my train, I headed over to Ground Kontrol and blew a few bucks on some pinball machines. Eventually, I made my way over to Union Station to catch my train. The Amtrak Cascades train was way nicer than the shitty Amtrak Wolverine that I had grown accustomed to. After a pleasant ride, I had arrived in Seattle.

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