Portland: you can’t get there from here

Some friends of mine just had a new baby, and the day after Thanksgiving I packed up, got a ride from my dad to the airport, and headed up to visit. I have only ever been to Portland as a quick train stop on my way down from Seattle last year, and I really liked it this trip. (That said, most of the trip was spent cooing at a very cute baby and running to the grocery store, sometimes twice a day.)

Days at home were pretty laid back: I was the only one who actually slept Thanksgiving night, so everyone else was recovering. People took turns making their best stews and chilis, and we went through a loaf of bread a day. In the course of the errands, I got to ride the cargo bike, which was all sorts of awesome. The back wheel is set a little further back than one would think, and the frame extends into a tube rack that could hold pretty much anything. One side had the world’s biggest pannier. When filled with groceries, I could scarcely get the bike unlocked, but once I was actually riding it, I didn’t notice either the weight or the fact that it was all on one side. Impressive.

One afternoon, we took off to tourist. We headed over to McMenamin’s for tater tots (comfort snack food taken seriously) and Powell’s where we wandered through the whole store and brought presents back for everyone (we were both heading out on business trips, so there was a limit to what we could carry on our own.)

I had a play deadline to hit of December 1. The deadline had been looming over my head all month, and I’d been reworking the play, but actually submitting it had gotten lost in the logistics of Thanksgiving. Sunday I popped over to Office Depot (not far from Powell’s) to print it, then Monday afternoon I borrowed the folding bicycle (link!) to head over to the post office. The great thing (okay, one of the great things) about Portland is that the streets are all numbered, so if you have a street and cross street, you can make a pretty good guess about how far away it is, at least in the numbered direction. There are two holes in this: one is that the numbered streets go up on both sides from the river, so you have to keep track of which side you need; the second is that, Ogdenlike, the streets don’t all go through. I was looking for the post office at, roughly, fourteenth and Powell Street, but from the north side, you just can’t get there from here. Seventeenth and twelfth both do, so with a quick glance at the map, I headed out. Seventeenth funneled me into an alarmingly narrow concrete underpass that twisted and turned, then got steep enough that I got up and walked. I emerged on the other side of the railroad tracks and looked for the post office. Google had been mistaken: other side of the street. But Powell is a main street, and just there it was doing some funky underpassing itself. Can’t get there from here. I biked up to fourteenth, sent off my manuscript Priority mail, demonstrated the bike folding for the small crowd that had gathered around it, and headed home up twelfth, which was far less eventful.

That evening, we headed over to the Bluebird Guest house, which was a cozy combination of bed and breakfast and grown-up hostel. My favorite thing was that they set out breakfast the night before, which meant that I could have some before I left for my flight at 4:30. And on to the next!


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