[A bit of a catch up in case you are confused: from January – August 2015 I studied abroad at Montana State University, Bozeman. In May 2015, my favourite boy and I took a road trip in our car (named Shane) across the western side of the USA. We camped in the car, cooked almost all our food on a Walmart camp stove and did a whole load of exploring. It was amazing. And I’m only just getting round to blogging about it!]
Portland was next on the agenda, we departed Washington in the morning after hugs and goodbyes to the family and headed down south a mere 160 miles (So short compared to our Bozeman-Seattle 600+ mile drive a few days before!) to the state of Oregon (the Beaver state). I was excited having heard lots of good things about the city and having wanted to visit Oregon for quite a while. Although I was more excited to visit the more nature-ey parts of the state, I was also interested to explore the city that Portlandia is based of off and where apparently the hipsters live.
We arrived in the afternoon and the main issue was finding somewhere to park the beast (the chevy!) which proved to be very difficult and the areas we were in felt a bit unsafe to leave the car in. We eventually did find somewhere, hopped on our bikes and headed into the city centre. We knew that some of our other international friends from MSU (Montana State – where we studied) would be there but didn’t know where they were, though we were hoping to bump into them. We cycled to Pioneer Courthouse Square in the downtown of the city and who did we find? Our contingent of MSU friends walking out of the visitor’s centre.
We hung out for a while, people watching and catching up from when we had seen them the day before. Portland definitely had some unique people and it was cool to see everyone so free and just being themselves however that may seem to us as outsiders.
After saying goodbyes to the MSU friends, we headed to grab some food, as cities do not work well with stoves (we have found) and as we were tired from the drive, it was easier to get a sandwich rather than go back to the car, get the stove, find somewhere to set up and cook in the city. We had Voodoo doughnuts for dessert as they were so raved about. As a donut lover, I can agree that they were very good indeed. We may have got them twice while we were in the city.
It started to pour with rain around late afternoon (Classic Pacific Northwest), and everything was starting to close. We hadn’t really planned for this kind of weather (though knew that we would have to deal with it sometimes) so after brainstorming ideas in a coffee shop and deciding that a night just sat in the car would be a waste, we endeavoured to see a bit more of the city. We then ended up walking around the city in circles. This was the first time, we felt a bit homesick, we didn’t have anywhere to hang out, the car was our bedroom and all we had.
However, we did not wanting to waste an evening, so we formulated a plan of action. Sean really wanted to see Avengers 2 and I wasn’t so keen so he dropped me at a very hipster 24 hour cafe for an evening of people watching, journal writing and editing and sorting through the Seattle photographs (I love editing and writing and journaling – its how I introvert!). While there, I overheard a man talking about how his interior design was life changing to so many people and how he could be world famous but instead he was choosing to stare at walls and meditate. I also met a local guy in his 60s or 70s who popped in for a herbal tea at half 10. I even managed to secure myself a table in the middle of the student-y chaos. I spent the evening eavesdropping and eating a hipster sandwich and drinking hot chocolate while watching the rain fall outside.
[The cafe I went to was called Southeast Grind and was actually really good (for both food and drink) – also free wifi and friendly staff – so if you are ever at a loose end in Portland then I would recommend. See their website here.
Sean picked me up around 11pm and we drove to a Walmart out of town as the streets didn’t feel as safe as other places we have stayed in for car camping and the Walmart was a safe spot as lots of people car camp in them. It is so useful how they allow it. We pulled up and parked and were happy to see that there were lots of other RVs and cars that looked they had people camping in them. We always checked which Walmarts allowed it using this very useful website (If you’re a car camper) which told us which ones weren’t okay to park at!
The next morning, we woke up to rain but I didn’t mind. It made me feel a bit at home even though I was so far away. But Yay! I was in Oregon, a place I had wanted to visit for a long time! We drove back into the city and explored by bike. The city was very equipped for bikers which I loved and made it very easy to be cycling around and looking at things as there were designated cycle paths on a lot of the roads – the only issue was so many one way streets (!!) but you can usually get away with that on a bike (I don’t encourage it though!) We cycled alongside the river, stopped to watch the cutest ducklings living their lives, took some timelapses by the bridges and went as far along the cycle path as we could until it ended with a no entry gate. We also had a wander round the mall (no tax forever 21 – my favourite shop.) so I could get some more appropriate cycling shoes than walking boots or flips flops!
After that, we wandered a little more before stopping at the famous food trucks for lunch. There were so many options lined up in a parking lot that it was hard to decide what to choose. I went for the Paleo Stand and got sweet potato and squash mash and this green leek and broccoli stew – it was so tasty! Sean had some sort of noodle thing that I stole a few bites of. Equally tasty! We walked over to the riverside to eat them and enjoy the views.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring by foot, popping into different shops and galleries and Powell’s: a huge bookstore with so many floors. It was awesome to browse for a while. We wanted to see some different neighbourhoods so ventured around and found some little squares and cool streets and watched the trams.
Late afternoon, after a stop for coffee (for S) and hot chocolate for me, we found the car and began the drive to the coast. We were excited to say the least! But that’s a story for next time involving a lighthouse, a crazy man and a whole lot of pretty coastline!
Ps Duck photos taken by Sean – his flickr is here and full of amazing photographic gems so check it out!
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