Today is the day.
I’ve been to Portland before… but Portland in Maine, not in Oregon. I’ve heard stories about Portland, Oregon, though… that it’s a mecca of adventure, that everyone is awesome, and that it’s the city that San Francisco wishes that it could be. That every restaurant is amazing, and that the cyclists are all strong and polite. Basically, that everyone loves Portland.
So… we had breakfast in Astoria instead. Because it was closer. And we were hungry.
We hit a place called Street 14 Cafe, which deserved a shout out due to the freaking amazing breakfast that they put together. Strong coffee, great sandwich, and good everything else. The Barista’s weren’t even snarky or rude, which was kind of confusing to the New Englander in me.
Then we screwed around at a toy shop, because it was there and we’d just watched a woman literally dance down the street and walk into the shop. And not the “do a little side-stop” dance. I mean full music-video, dancing-in-the-rain rocking out. Swinging on street lights. People be crazy happy here, I guess.
Anyways, we explored Astoria a little, then we left and went to Portland. The goal was to Kayak for the lunch-time hours, then head into town and explore a bit there. Then dinner, then drive on to our last night of camping before Hood River.
The Kayaking ended up starting a lot later than planned though, thanks to a rather ridiculous traffic jam that we all found ourselves in, driving into Portland itself. The cars got separated, but thankfully I was able to sneak ahead of the jam and get everything set up at the rental place by the time Mike and Liz pulled into the parking lot.
Instead of rocking the Kayaks, we chose a different tact this time – a single Canoe, so that we could stick a little closer together and still deal with pictures and fun and everything. And fun was had in buckets and bundles – especially when we found out that there was a restaurant right on the water, that catered to boats.
So… we tied up along side the dock, lashed the canoe in, and had burgers and drinks and snacks and…. ohh it was lovely. It was a super sunny day, just hot enough that we were happy to be on the water. And the food was good, and the birds… yeah, I think I saw my first bald eagle while we were paddling downriver.
The one downside was that we were in a canoe. Canoe’s are really hard to steer, compared to a kayak. So we basically zig-zagged our way down the river the whole time… not the worst thing ever, but remember that Mike and I are freaking kings of kayaking. So this silly inefficiency was really annoying to two guys used to chasing down sailboats and yelling pirate phrases at them as they steer away from us.
Meh, anyways. We paddled. We put ashore for a bit, walked around. Did some yoga on a floating log. Looked awesome. Saw bald eagles (again). And just… such a lovely day.
Then: Portland! We headed into a sushi restaurant that dancing-girl (remember her? The one from the toy shop in Astoria?) had recommended. They were popular too – we arrived pretty early, but there was already a solid line to get in. So we put our name in, found a wine bar, and got a flight of wines to try out.
It was a long and kind of strange wait, to be honest… we signed up, then had to come by and check back to see whether we’d been called or not. So kind of stressful, but thankfully the wine bar helped out a lot with that annoyance.
And the food helped too, once we were seated and served… holy crap, those rolls! They were actually honestly just too big, for the most part. They were delicious, but nearly too big to fit as a single bite. And no one wants to take sushi in multiple bites… it just stinks. No fun. So it was a challenge… but an acceptable one, since they were so tasty.
And then we paid. And then we drove some more.
And then we were in camp!
First, a quick note about the scenery down the Columbia Gorge. I’ve traveled a lot. By the time I drove out of Portland and into the Gorge, I’d been around the world. New Zealand, Zion, Joshua Tree, France, England and South America. I’ve seen sights and climbed places and explored. The views in the Colombia River Gorge make the list. They’re amazing – the water, the sun, the cliffs… it’s stellar.
Anyways, we made camp at Wyeth Campground, a place that was made by conscientious objectors to WWII. It was a bit rough due to there being no potable water, thanks to a bacteria bloom in the area. Thankfully, we had planned ahead and had an idea how to deal with that… we just drank beer instead!
So we set up camp, made a fire, and relaxed the way that one should relax when camping. Mike played guitar, Liz and I sang / played bongos, and just sat back and enjoyed the night. I’d gotten a real good fire going, since we didn’t need to conserve wood, so we kept it up late into the night, enjoying the scene and the woods.
That night was really the only night that was identical to the camping trips that Mike and I would take back in Mass. Liz did crash early in the evening, but the two of us stayed out and kept talking and blathering and complaining about the world, and talking excitedly about everything we were going to do in the near future.
It’s amazing to sync so well with someone, even after so long without seeing them. So we enjoyed the night, and didn’t worry about the time. I think it was something like 2 or 3 in the morning when we did finally crash… but since the next day was the final day of my trip, it didn’t really matter all that much, did it?