I’m back at Amanda’s for a couple of days before hopping on a southbound train to San Francisco on Friday. Three weeks of wandering, wondering and marvelling are coming to an end, and I will leave this eccentric haven with a wistful sigh. The melodramatic side of my brain is now conjuring images of boarding the train in slow motion with Bittersweet Symphony blasting in the background… before I get too carried away, here is a round-up of the week’s goings-on:
Timbers Game. As the country’s soccer capital, it would have been wrong to have left without experiencing a bit of State-side footy here in Portland. I headed down to the stadium with Amanda, Mary and a group of others to watch the Portland Timbers take on the Houston Dynamos: a very watchable if slightly scrappy 2-2 draw (the Timbers were 2-0 down at half time, so the second half really was edge-of-your-seat stuff!). As I often find with football, however, my favourite part was watching the crowd… true to form, the Americans take cheering on their team to the next level (there are even ‘cheerleaders’ posted around the stands with their backs to the field, whose job is to lead the crowd’s cheers like orchestra conductors throughout the game). The below photo should hopefully give you some idea of the atmosphere. SO much fun.
Mt Hood. Saturday saw new-found kindred spirit, yoga buddy and generally excellent human being Mohan and I make our way around the Mt Hood loop. The beauty of the drive itself was countered slightly by a thick layer of smoke that had wafted in from inland forest fires which, coupled with the barrenness of the rain-starved landscape, made certain areas look like something out of Star Wars. First stop was the village of Hood River, where a paddle boarding competition was taking place (complete with hilarious commentator, random!). Next was Trillium Lake, a classic camping spot full of families setting up their BBQs, gazebos and inflatables (think of any American movie you’ve ever seen featuring a family vacation to a woodland lake). Mt Hood usually towers over the lake in the background, but due to the aforementioned smoke, it was barely visible! However, we did get up close and personal with the mountain when we made our last stop at Timberline Lodge. The Lodge plays host to hoards of skiers at almost any other time of year (there is usually snow on the mountain well into August apparently), but the dry conditions meant that we weren’t in for a whole lot of snow ourselves! Despite the smoke and atypical lack of greenery, it is hard for this area to not be beautiful in some way, and that added to the excellent company made for a fantastic day out.
The Coast. On Sunday, Amanda and I relived our Spanish road-tripping days (with her in the driving seat this time) as we made our way out to the Oregon Coast. We made our way to Ecola State Park (I know I know, I couldn’t stop calling it either ‘Ecoli’ or ‘Ebola’ either…), and were hit immediately by an enchanting, mystical view of sea mist hugging the rocks way into the distance. We hiked through coastal spruce forest (here was the lushness I had been craving!) out to Indian Beach, where we found mussels, starfish and a wee crab clinging to the rocks! This was followed by a stop at Cannon Beach, where we ate large amounts of ice cream and wandered across the sand to the famous Haystack Rock, watching the sunlight glistening on the water and setting the world to rights as we went.
I have also decided to do an ‘Unexpected highlight of the week’ mention in every post, for those special little moments that are not part of a fixed event or excursion, but which accumulate to make your experience of a place truly memorable. This week’s highlight is courtesy of the No. 4 bus driver who drove me between Division and Rose Quarter on Monday afternoon. As the doors swung open in front of me, the driver, a large lady with hair pulled back into a bun the same size as her head and finished off with a huge white flower, greeted me thus: “Well HELLO there, come awwn in!!! Girrrrrrrl where you stoppin’ today?? … AWESOME, got your ticket there? … Right on!!! Oooookay hold awwn folks, heeeere we go!!” Punctuation can only convey enthusiasm to a certain extent, so I hope my excessive use of it goes some way towards illustrating just how happy this lady seemed to be driving us all where we needed to go. And you know what? As she greeted each passenger with equal amounts of exuberance and cheer, every single person on that bus was grinning all the way across town. What a babe.
After casting my mind back over the past three weeks’ happenings, I realise how at home I have felt, here in this city of a thousand faces. Without wanting to make this sound too much like a gushing Oscars acceptance speech, my experience thus far has confirmed for me that impressive scenery is often an added bonus, and it is the people in any place that make or break your experience. The people I have met in Portland have been overwhelmingly generous, welcoming and engaging – Amanda, Emma (and the Belmont crew), Mohan, Tyson, Yvonne, Bob, awesome bus driver, life coach sushi lady, Firelight yogis, Sasha the lovely interpreter, guy who gave me a free cup of tea in case I was missing home: THANK YOU. My heart is already a little heavy at the thought of moving on, but I am consoled somewhat by the prospect of the Californian shenanigans just around the corner… Pastures new: I’m on my way!
More photos to follow.
Love and light to everybody, as ever 🙂
K x x x