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We’re here in the City of Roses

April 1, 2007
Dntn Portland

Downtown Portland (Wikimedia Commons)

So they’re calling it “Nob Hill” these days. When I lived in Portland the first time, Oregonian columnist Jonathan Nicholas referred to the main streets of this neighborhood as “Northwest Trendy-first” and “Northwest Trendy-third.”

No matter. Safety Ed told me he’d been to Portland about three times previously. I’ve been here about three hundred. Not counting living here. Portland is close enough to Seattle that it could almost be thought of as a commute. At least to someone from L.A. or the San Francisco Bay Area. On I-5, you can easily make the trip in less than three hours.

When we aren’t at Spring Scoot functions, I’m playing tour guide. We came in the previous evening over the St. Johns Bridge, down Willamette Boulevard to Greely Avenue, over the Broadway Bridge and down Broadway. This morning, we woke up early, so I was able to give Safety Ed the walking tour of downtown: Pioneer Courthouse Square, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Skidmore Fountain (which hosts the Portland Saturday Market during the spring, summer and fall) and MAX, light rail that’s useful (unlike Seattle’s Central Link).

Still, for being a trendy neighborhood, Nob Hill is home to some pretty seedy establishments. The meet-up for this morning’s ride is one of them.

Safety Ed and I arrive at Joe’s Cellar on NW Trendy-first to find a whole bunch of scooters parked in front, across the street and down the block. There are not only lots of Washington license plates among the orange Oregon ones, but California and British Columbia are well-represented, too. Portland is not a good place to find lovingly restored vintage scoots… this place seems to be all about rat bikes. Not a lot of ETs or LXs here, either.

We walk in the bar, and are immediately reminded we’re not in Washington any more… people inside are smoking. Bleah! I keep my Corazzo jacket on despite the heat in the place, because it’ll get aired out real good in a little while.

We see Doc & Tiny and the pink Stella; Sugarbear, Thom, Vince and J came from Seattle as well. In total, there must be about a hundred bikes.

Time to go, and we’re headed for the West Hills. Portland has a lot of steep hills, a lot of houses hung off the sides of those hills, and a lot of twisty roads between the houses. A lot of local SCCA club racers got their start zooming around Portland’s twisties; as we take off, I can once again call on my own racing experience. Especially the many season openers at Portland International Raceway, where usually rained.

No real downpour, but it’s spitting rain as we ascend toward Council Crest Park. I am, as we say in racing, “going backwards,” i.e., everybody is passing me even though I’ve cranked the right handgrip as far as I can… the PX has no more. “Put on a Sito Plus pipe and upjet the carburetor,” everybody says. Yeah, yeah, yeah. My birthday’s in June… somebody wanna get me one?

We arrive at Council Crest Park, and I am reminded just how high the West Hills are. Downtown Portland’s skyscrapers are down there. No, way down there. Safety Ed’s been enjoying the tourist thing, and seeing this route is even more enjoyment for him. He can run toward the front of the group, because he has all 22 horsepower in his GT.

We’re off again, heading in the direction of what turned out to be Lake Oswego (I don’t remember all of the roads, and when in the back of the group it’s more important to keep them in sight than to sightsee). At some point we’ll be arriving at Willamette Park for a BBQ, but I recognize some places on the way. We’re going really fast, and the rain spits get bigger and bigger.

What’s this? We’re going across the Sellwood Bridge, which has the distinction of being so creaky that not only are trucks banned, but TriMet had to quit running buses across it. Makes you wonder if a hundred scooters might cause the narrow bridge to crumble into the river, doesn’t it?

We went so fast on the ride, we’re way early for the BBQ, so the group has made an intermediate stop at a strip club on the east side of the river. This place serves to remind me just how puritanical Seattle has become. In Portland, one can sit in a bar, consume an alcoholic beverage and smoke a cigarette while watching a stripper. Not in nanny-state Washington: smoking is banned in bars and restaurants by state law, and a moratorium on new strip clubs in Seattle was only lifted last year after being in effect for nearly two decades. You can only get soft drinks in Seattle’s existing strip clubs.

Just as we pulled up to the place, the skies opened up and a drenching rain fell for what seemed like hours. But as the time for the BBQ approached, the rain let up, and by the time the food was served in a giant open pavilion in the park, the sun came out.

A great meal of brisket, mac & cheese, beans and greens (washed down with Pabst Blue Ribbon, the official beer of scootering) was a great end to a very busy day.

But there’s a party later on at the Red Room on NE 82nd Avenue…

UPDATE: We have about four hours to kill before the party, and the sun is still high in the sky, so I suggest to Safety Ed that we take a ride on OR 43 to Oregon City. It’s a twisty road that begins in Portland as SW Macadam Avenue and takes several names as it passes through Lake Oswego and West Linn.

Maybe it’s just riding on the PX instead of in a car, but traffic seems to be going a lot faster than I remember… I have the throttle cranked almost as hard as on U.S. 30.

We arrive at the Willamette Falls viewpoint (go through the Oregon City center… such as it is). You can see why the white settlers picked this spot as the end of the Oregon Trail. Rushing water is useful in many ways, not the least of which is generating electricity, though that was not one of the original enterprises. Neither was sewage treatment.

Safety Ed tells me he had once visited the beginning of the Oregon Trail in Lancaster, Pa. and was eager to come here so he could tell his parents he’d been to the end of the Oregon Trail. There’s an interpretive center on the other side of town (it’s really easy to spot from I-205… it looks like a covered wagon), but it isn’t open at this particular time.

We head back to the hotel via McLoughlin Boulevard, then cross the Hawthorne Bridge. Oh, crap, I think as I realize this is the one that’s all grating… Favicon


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