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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Great Northwest

My trip to Portland last week was great. The work part was interesting and went smoothly (and, crucially, was free). Portland has such a nice vibe...it's sort of the anti-DC. Washington DC is very yuppie and very status-obsessed; "What do you do?" is always the first question someone in a bar would ask. By contrast, Portland is pretty, friendly and low-key. People are hip and artsy, but in a less pretentious way than elsewhere. It was definitely nice when we went out on our first night to the Lucky Labrador Beer Hall near our hotel -- it was just a converted warehouse with a bunch of picnic tables inside, an indoor bike rack, and Modest Mouse's The Moon and Antarctica playing on the stereo.

The city also (famously) pays lots of attention to urban planning/design and public transit. The streetcar and light rail are nice, and people on bikes are everywhere. Powell's, apparently the biggest bookstore of them all, is very impressive.

We had a little extra time one afternoon and took a drive on the old Columbia River Road along the side of the gorge. It's pretty even through my cell phone's camera:

I continued my doughnut obsession by hitting the famous Voodoo Doughnut in Portland. Picture me wearing a suit walking into what I think is best described as a punk rock doughnut shop where "Movin' Right Along" from The Muppet Movie is playing. I stuck out, but the maple doughnut was delicious.

Reed flew in on Thursday night and we proceeded to put 550 miles on a rental car between 9am Friday and 7pm Saturday. We drove up to Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. We took a walk through the freezing cold Ape Cave. We camped one night in the national forest surrounding the volcano. I did lots of driving on winding national forest roads, which was fun some of the time in the kinda-sorta sporty Chevy Cobalt. It was a two hour roller coaster drive from our campsite to the Mt. St. Helens overlook (and we got slightly lost on the way back).

The mountain itself was extremely impressive. We went to the Windy Ridge viewpoint, which is the more remote one on the far side of the park from the Interstate. The drive in takes you first through standing dead trees, and then a stripped landscape with only low brush reclaiming the area. From the viewpoint you can see the huge side of the mountain that was blasted away in the eruption, as well as the area below that it swept across. You can also see more or less inside the crater, including the smoking new cone that the volcano is creating.

We drove out to the Oregon coast on Saturday. It was quite striking, very different than either the east or west coast landscapes I'm used to. Dramatic hills and lush greenery, and a middle-of-nowhere feeling you can really never get anywhere on the east coast.

Anyway, here are some crappy pictures I took using my cell phone camera (my digital camera is on its last legs). Reed had his digital SLR along, so I'll post some of his pictures later if I can convince him to send me a selection.

Spirit Lake was partially filled in the eruption of St. Helens (outside the picture to the left), and still has some dead timber floating in it to this day.

We stopped for a while in Oceanside, Oregon. The fog was rolling in.

We ate PB&Js on the beach, but the wind was blowing pretty well, so my second sandwich was a little crunchy. We were using forks because Safeway didn't have any free plastic knives to offer us...

The Mears Point lighthouse was cool.

There was this spit of land sheltering a bay that you could drive out on.

This is my last week of work. I'm off to visit Alex at his new place in NYC this weekend, and then classes start next week.


lj said...

Sounds like a great trip. I really liked Portland on my brief trip, too. I missed the Voodoo Doughnut and Wedding Chapel, however. Wow. I love the "What are you interested in?" list on the LH side of the webpage.

teague said...

Seriously. Mark me down as interested in a coffin full of doughnuts.

[翔] said...

Must've been nice. I wish I could travel like that too