After just over a week and over 2000 miles on the road on the Oregon Trail Road Trip, we had reached our destination. Portland, Oregon. After being across the wide open plains, seeing nothing for miles and miles, and through the Rockies etc it was kind of strange to be in a cityscape. As far as busy cities go though, it just didn’t feel rushed or busy, regardless of how many cars and people. Portland.. such a relaxed metropolis.
It was the first taste of rain too on the trip. Shame, but glad we had escaped the storms as we went along. We had a few hours to explore and there is only one way to see Portland… By bicycle tour. Portland is the bike capital of the USA and known as one of the most cycle friendly cities in the world. For people that cycle to work here the stats show the number of people that do to be at least 10 times the national average. Bike lanes upon bike lanes adorn the city. Thank you to Pedal Bike Tours for the great way to see Portland, buildings ,history, culture.
The brief became reality. Bikes rule Portland.. Forget the near death feeling cycling in the UK. Here, no matter if on a busy main junction, or slowly heading down a narrow street the cars just patiently wait. No horn beeping. Being British you feel you should say sorry for holding the car up but they smile and seem to take pleasure in allowing you to take in the cycle! Most of the time too there are miles and miles of bike lanes anyway.
It was a pleasant 9 mile ride with stops at many interesting places. The Willamette River cuts right through downtown Portland, a great place to start. Ok, Portland is at the end of the Oregon Trail and thus as far as non native inhabitation goes the history is relatively new… But to say in 1851 the population was just over 800 with a saw mill and log cabins then see today it has building after building both sides of the river, and a population well over half a million… that is some quick transformation.
Timber was the driver for it… The great plank road! The place had the Willamette and the Columbia River, it had good port access to the Pacific Ocean, and the USA needed wood. Wood that the Pacific Northwest had and needed transporting from. Ship upon ship of wood heading south along the coast to help build California for example.
Some of you today may now know Portland for its breweries! A capital of the microbrewing world. A nickname for the city is Beertown. In perspective, Portland has more breweries than any other place in the world, yes more than Munich or Cologne in Germany.
Throughout the city on the route we came upon many interesting and historic tidbits.The old wooden home of a certain Simon Benson for instance. A man that had a great deal to do with the growth of Portland. A philanthropist whom tried many times to make a venture work and going broke many times before he succeeded. In the late 19th century he looked at the logging and timber opportunities around the area and then took it to a new level. Replaced the movement of the wood over land from oxen to steam and then produced a system of rafts that could carry many tonnes of timber down the coast to California. Then moved into hotels, land and highways.. leaving a legacy. His home (below) was originally more downtown. To preserve from demolition in 2000 it was moved literally as it was to the university campus.
Throughout the city you see bronze drinking water fountains. It was Simon Benson, who was teetotal, who started with 20 of them as a way of keeping his employees away from alcohol.
Ah yes of course.. the random rack of bicycles tied up reaching to the top of a lamp post! Art? Rebellion? A lot of disused child bikes appear there. The sculpture can change daily with additions almost every day. Apparently some are then used by some crazy adventurers free wheeling them down a hillside
Being a top cycle city means a lot of cycle racks for people to shop and commute. Plenty of original ones around.
A great coffee… Brazilian coffee from the heart of Portland.
Now then, you cannot go to Portland and miss out on the famous street food carts! You see them lined up everywhere in the city. Rows and rows of food carts (over 600 of them) and when lunchtime comes the office workers, tourists, drivers all seem to stop what they are doing and head to them for a taste of cuisine from all over the world. Thai, greek, german, italian… the list goes on and on. You have a taste on your mind, the food carts will cater, and for great prices too. Even found a Brit cart (below). No, I didn’t do the typical tourist home from home thing.. I myself enjoyed a gorgeous Pita Gyros
By the waterfront is an area full of stone and bronze monuments and cherry blossom trees. A reminder and memorial to a sad part of history. Portland in the 40s was full of Japanese immigrants as was the whole of the West coast of USA. In fact, of the 120,000 or so two thirds were 2nd/3rd generations and thus American citizens. After Pearl Habour, Roosevelt ordered the internment of ‘anyone’ of Japanese ancestry! Of course wrong, and of course formal admissions and apologies have been made since. This memorial is a reminder of the hardship of these people of that time. One hundred cherry blossom trees line the river which glows a natural pink for a few weeks per year.
Buildings young and old adorn the streets. I showed you about the Powell’s City of Books in a previous post. Portland not only looks back but is forever looking forward. Take the building below. An old warehouse over 100 years old transformed in an eco headquarters and place for a more modern restaurants.
Old and new blended together making a city with a truly relaxed atmosphere.
Every turn turned up new sites and learning. One minute cycling through gardens, next over a great bridge over the river, next through the old town and chinatown.
The rain didn’t dampen the day and was a fantastic way to see a lot of the city.. refreshing to relax on a bike in the city for sure.