You don’t go to the Louvre and forget your glasses. You don’t turn down your mother’s home cooked meal. And you don’t go to Portland, OR without sampling (or indulging) in some beer and coffee. As arguably the beer capital of America the amount of time and effort and emotion that the great people of Portland put into their brews is unmatched. Likewise, Portland is the shyer, hippier, but equally talented younger sibling to America’s epicenter of java, Seattle. Oregonians seem to take pleasure in the small things in life that can yield large amounts of happiness. At a local farmers market I ordered a regular Americano coffee, but the swishing, and clanging, and stirring that went on behind the counter made me think I had requested some ridiculous cup of ‘joe’ capable of changing my life. The passion these people have for their beer and coffee is inspiring, and while I am no expert on either, I felt like I was improving my beverage IQ simply by enjoying maybe a little too much of each.
My fantastic host Garrett, a native Mainer like myself but now proud resident of the other Portland, knew the in’s and out’s of a great weekend in the City of Roses. From the second he plunged a cup of coffee into my hand upon my arrival, to the final beer we shared at 2am (possibly 3am) the morning of my departure Garrett exposed me to a fascinating, albeit mellow Northwest metropolis. I can’t give you a place-by-place account of my time in Portland, it would be too lengthy, and I also mentally can not recall each, but here are some of the highlights:
The Saturday market is a potpourri of great food, beer, art, music, jewelry, and hilarious T-shirts. Despite being a weekly occurrence, it felt like an annual celebration that the city spends months planning. It is a true testament to the passion these people have for enjoying arts and culture, and supporting all things local. Kids that couldn’t have been older than twelve were camped out on the street playing music, and were actually very talented. Street artists don’t beg passers-by to buy their sketchings but instead invite them to take a look at their impressive pieces of artwork. Another staple at the Saturday Market is of course the beer. Rogue Distillery, a local alehouse, maintained a tent stocked with their award winning beer. Although a bit early in the day, a nice Rogue ‘Dead Guy’ ale and lamb Gyro went well together while roaming the market.
Where there’s beer in Portland, there’s coffee in Portland. Just a few blocks from the Saturday Market is the Farmer’s Market. It is a great place to get that large Americano while sampling organic cheeses, breads, jams, and meats that, without restraint, could induce face-stuffing. The proprietors are all independent, and I didn’t want to steal their hard work, so I held back gobbling all their samples but it was hard. Perhaps if I had held off on a last micro-brew the night before I would have had enough cash to buy a sample of cheese or meat, but I had to pick my poison.
My time in Portland was a weekend of ups and downs with delicious food keeping me running. The coffee was rich, the beer was full, and they both worked to stave off the other while complimenting each other nicely as well. It was all too perfect though; as I asked the Amtrak attendant at the station to print off my next set of tickets, he informed there was an Avalanche in Utah that had shut down a large portion of the track from Sacramento to Salt Lake City. My option would be to take a bus to Reno, Nevada and then pick up the train from there to Salt Lake. It would also require me to spend 30 of the next 33 hours of my life on the train. Just too much. Already tired, and a bit hungover, I just did not feel like dealing with this dilemma. I told him thank you for the information, but I will just figure it out when I get to Sacramento. It was a bit short-sighted, and I probably should have given myself more time to plan, but it has all worked out regardless. My new plan is to veer off track (my last train pun I promise) and fly from Sacramento to Salt Lake. This both gets me in at 3:50 pm instead of 3:15 am and leaves me with some time to see a little of Salt Lake City Tuesday afternoon. I know this trip was supposed to be all connected to the ground, but sometimes Mother Nature calls an audible and you have to go with it. I’m not complaining as I sit here in the terminal with free Wi-Fi, my one small carry-on, and a magazine, but I will miss one of the most beautiful portions of the country not riding the California Zephyr.
Also, I’ve been in contact a bit with the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler Seth Kugel and he shared this great video with me from his ride on Amtrak. It brings back memories of my own from riding through the south, and also makes me wish I had brought a video camera. Check it out: It is a fantastically accurate account of riding long distance on Amtrak. http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/09/07/travel/1248068988248/the-frugal-traveler-touring-the-south.html