In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dave: Portland - Berkeley on Steroids

Portland seems like a great place to be 28 years old.

We rolled into Portland on a Friday night at dinner time. Using her “game mom,” Pamela had scoped out a good, cheap restaurant called Pok Pok. Using our GPS system, nicknamed Penelope because she is the woman’s voice on the Odyssey we are driving, we found the place easily after passing many other bars and restaurants that were hopping with life.

Pok Pok must indeed be a great place because it was a two hour wait to be seated. Pamela returned to her game mom while the rest of us listened to our stomachs growling.

She found another place called Por que no? Penelope led us there in a few minutes. There were 20 people in a line snaking out the door.

We gave up and ate at the Dingo grill, a Mexican place across the street. It was decent and we ate at a table on the street, which was fun. It was a warm night.

This part of Portland seems like a giant Berkeley. Lots of single family homes, tightly spaced. Long, pre-war commercial strips revitalized with restaurants, galleries, vintage clothing stores, etc. And lots of youngish people, many of them riding bicycles. There are bikes everywhere and plenty of bike lanes. Everybody seems very environmentally conscious. I'll bet George Bush is not popular here.

After dinner we checked into the Double Tree Inn, near the Lloyd Center. This is a fairly lifeless area, but the hotel was luxurious. Again it was the result of some good Internet scouting from Pamela.

In the morning we went to the Saturday Market. Pamela and I were envisioning something like San Franciso’s Ferry Plaza Market. Instead it was more like a big, weekly crafts fair with some food booths.

We pushed on to Powell’s City of Books. What a great bookstore! Linden in particular was in seventh heaven. She’s been flying through books on this trip. The area around Powell’s has become interesting too. When we were here 20 years ago it seemed rather desolate. Now it’s upscale, with an Anthropologie, a Sur la Table, and a Whole Foods right across the street.

After several false starts we finally end up eating lunch from a band of foot carts. Although we had to stand, the food was excellent. I had a very good gyro.

Then, after some more tramping around and a consultation with the game mom, we drove to an excellent French-style bakery and café where we had some cold drinks and little pastries. The weather is in the mid-90s—very un-Portland.

We returned to the hotel to cool off in the pool. Then we got dressed up and met Nate Herrmann, son of our friends Bruce and Erin. Nate has just finished his sophomore year at Reed and is spending the summer in Portland.

We had a very good dinner at a very stiff hotel restaurant, a recommendation from some waitress that Pamela accosted. Then we drove to Reed, where we had ice cream and Nate led us on a moonlight tour of the campus. We learned all about life at the library, where Nate is working, and the nuclear reactor in the Psychology building—probably the only Pscyh Department in the country that has its own nuclear reactor.

It was great to see Nate. He’s grown up a lot in the last year. Lark and Linden aren’t so sure about that. But, it’s clear he’s doing well at Reed and pleasing to see how he's matured.

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