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Portland By Train And Bicycle - Elf M. Sternberg
Portland By Train And Bicycle
Omaha, Raen (nee Kouryou-chan) and I all went to Portland last weekend, and we did it without taking the car. Or any amount of luggeage that wouldn't fit on our backs. Everything had to fit in a backpack, and we were bringing our bicycles.

We left early Friday afternoon, scheduled for the 2:10pm train out of Seattle to Portland. Our first trick, after packing, was getting to the train station: a 3.5 mile ride to the Puget Sound Light Rail station by the airport, then a 35 minute ride into downtown. The light rail station and the train station are right next to each other.

I have to say that train rides are the most civilized way to travel. Unfortunately, we shared our train with a passel of twenty-something women who decided to drink and revel loudly in their escapades. They weren't particularly rude, just loud. We had headphones. The only disappointment on the train was the food; it was dull and bland, and Raen complained that the bread on her burger was mealy and kinda gross.

We arrived in Portland around 6:30. The ride to the hotel was only two miles but man, it felt like it was much longer than the 3.5 mile ride we'd done at the start of the trip. That's a classic illusion of travelling through a place you know well versus one you don't know at all.

We weren't roughing it at the DoubleTree Portland, but we hadn't intended to. After unpacking and changing into non-riding clothes, we took a bus to Division Street, a very hipster part of town. Our destination was the Pok Pok Thai restaurant, but when we got there the wait was over two hours. We went to their sister restaurant, a noodle shop named Sen Yai, right up the street. That was delicious! And really spicy, at least the one I had. Like a lot of the more twee Asian restaurants I've been to, a video screen played scenes from Thai media that were otherwise incomprehensible to ordinary Americans.

We had desert at Lauretta Jean's Pies. I had the Whiskey Peach. Couldn't really taste the whiskey, but the pie was tasty.

The ride back to the hotel was more adventuresome; the bus line we'd taken to get to Division Street was no longer running, so we ended up taking a larger circuit through Downtown. We got back around ten.

Saturday, we rode to Powells. Despite being an even longer ride, it felt shorter. I'm not sure what's going on there with the psychology, but I think we'd established that we could ride around Portland safely without getting lost.

Portland feels a lot like Seattle, only without the polish of recent tech universe pressure. I think that's a good thing. I like the feel of the place. It's much more lived in; it feels *proven*, made by human hands, in a way that Seattle often doesn't. On the other hand, nearby forest fires put a light haze and smell of smoke everywhere. It didn't make riding dangerous, just fragant.

Powells was amazing, but it always is. I bought three technical manuals. I just don't buy fiction in hardcover anymore unless I plan to keep it forever, and there aren't many books in that category, not with my shelves so full. Omaha and Raen also bought a ton of books. And I do mean a ton. On Sunday, when we rode back to the train station, we had to find a place to put them all, and the packing was damn challenging.

Lunch was at a place called Kenny & Zukes. A real Jewish deli, with real pastrami & rye. Raen and Omaha gave me their (real, Kosher, crisp!) pickles. Heaven.

On the ride back to the hotel, we passed by an authentic barcade which was all-ages until 5pm. Omaha and I went in and played our hearts out; I played 10 games straight of Robotron (they didn't have a Defender, dammit) and loved every one of them, almost setting the high score. The game was set insanely hard, 65,000 points for a new man! (Traditionally, it's 25,000.) Now I want to build a MAME cabinet!

Back at the hotel, Raen wanted a nap. Omaha and I went walking around for a few hours, then headed back. By the time we headed out, it was past nine. Our first choice for dinner was a little place named Petisco a few blocks away, but it was closing early. We were the first people to show up since 6pm, they said! We ended up at an Italian place named Pastini across the street, then back across the street again at a little place called Eb & Bean for frozen yogurt, which was tolerably less sweet than your usual suspect yogurt.

The hotel was hosting a model railroad association conference. The overwhelming impression of the attendees was that theyr were all white and all retired. There were few youngsters and no people of color at all.

Sunday, we packed and checked out, left our bags with the concierge, and walked to Voodoo Donughts. Raen naturally ordered the Gay Bar, a maple log decorated with a rainbow flag assortment of Froot Loops. After that, Omaha wanted to do something "different."

Portland has a series of "Bike Portland" events, in which the city closes off streets and lets only bicycles take a fairly large circuit through several neighborhoods. We rode to the nearest intersection, and joined in.

It was fun. We passed hundreds of people. Portland is very much a bicycle town, much moreso than Seattle. When we explain to people that we were from Seattle, they said, "But aren't your hills so much worse?" We allowed that they were, but that wasn't a reason not to ride. The entire ride took us past the noodle shop we'd eaten at Friday night, and up and down whole neighborhoods that, had we lived there, I might have been able to make sense of.

The most surreal event happened when we got back to the starting point. I hopped off my bike for a break, and a woman said, "I'm a friend of Charlie's" and shook my hand.

"That's, um, nice?" I said, utterly confused.

Then I heard someone say "Mr. Mayor!" and shake the hand of the man next to her. It was Charles Hales, the mayor of Portland. On a bicycle. With the tight spandex shorts and everything, doing his part to be part of the community and show his spirit. As we rode away, Omaha giggled and said, "I was good! I didn't ask him to come to the King County Democrats' Fundraiser next month."

We rode back to the hotel and collected our bags from the concierge, then rode to the train station. It was a lot easier this time.

The train was busier going North than it was heading South on Friday. This time, it was a passel of 20-something young *men*, still chatting away at the front of the car, loudly. The WiFi on the train is quite effective, although it did cut out in tunnels once in a while. For a quick trip between one state and the next, it's so much nicer than driving or plane.

The train ride and final bike ride back to the house weren't very dramatic. By then we were exhausted.

I think we'll do that again sometime. It's a nice way to spend a weekend. Pricey in some ways, cheaper than more relaxed in others. I'm sure if we booked a much cheaper hotel, we'd have saved a lot. But it was fun.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
aelfie From: aelfie Date: September 14th, 2015 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I moved to Portland just a smidge over a year ago. We discovered Pok Pok by accident and ate there without knowing what the place was. It was just a Thai restaurant across the street from She Bop (where we had been shopping and decided we wanted lunch). Amazing! I've been back once since and am hoping to go back soon. I will now have to add Sen Yai to the list.

aelfie From: aelfie Date: September 15th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I moved to Portland just a smidge over a year ago. We discovered Pok Pok by accident and ate there without knowing what the place was. It was just a Thai restaurant across the street from She Bop (where we had been shopping and decided we wanted lunch). Amazing! I've been back once since and am hoping to go back soon. I will now have to add Sen Yai to the list.

2 comments or Leave a comment