Saturday was Opening Day at Portland International Raceway. While the quick way to get there is I-84 west/I-5 north, lately I’ve noticed the GTS emits a faint burning rubber smell after freeway riding. I’ve been a bad boy—the drive belt didn’t get replaced at 9,300 miles, and I’m about 4,000 miles past that. No money, remember?
Of course, you don’t have to take freeways. There’s always Interstate Avenue.
You take Broadway to the Rose Quarter, so named for the Rose Garden (where the Portland Trailblazers play), then take a left-right jog onto Interstate Avenue.
I’m guessing before there was an I-5, this was how you got to the Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River. You’ll notice lots of motels.
The major chains are conspicuous by their absence. The motels are small, family-run establishments, the kind Rick Steves would recommend if they were in Europe.
North Portland used to be pretty sketchy, but construction of the MAX Yellow Line from downtown to the Expo Center has turned the neighborhood’s fortunes around. While it’s now thought of as trendy and more and more often being referred to as “NoPo,” the place has not become annoyingly gentrified. Not yet, anyway.
See, there’s a bowling alley. Portland has tons of them, unlike Seattle, which seems to think cookie-cutter 4-story condo buildings are a better use of the land.
Portland also has lots of places like The Alibi. I get the impression this place has always been a tiki bar, unlike the ones that jumped on the tiki revival a few years ago.
Across the street from The Alibi is this drug store. I’m not sure if the store is really trying to blend into the background, or if it just worked out that way. There’s lots of restored bare brick on Interstate Avenue, and lots of early 21st century “sustainable” style, too.
But there’s not a lot of traffic, and the pavement is wonderful. Venture a few blocks east or west you’ll see lots of nice little old houses and small apartment buildings. You’ll realize why the neighborhood has become popular.