Pacific time — What we did in Portland

It took a good 5-6 days of being stuck between Central time and Pacific time (so, Mountain time, technically), but we’re more or less back to our regular routine around here.  Now it’s time to review our trip before I forget anything important.

We stayed in four different houses/apartments over the course of eleven days in Oregon.  We started in a VRBO house just southwest of Mt. Tabor in Portland.  After three nights, we moved to a VRBO apartment in the Buckman neighborhood of Portland.  We loved this location — very central for biking, plus some things within walking distance — and we were here for five nights.

At that point, we headed out of Portland for a couple of days.  Our road trip took us to a VRBO cabin in Prospect, Oregon, just south of Crater Lake.  That was our home for two nights as we explored both Crater Lake and the abundance of amazing waterfalls in the area, many of which are quite easily accessible (i.e., short walks/hikes that were relatively easy for Gabriel and my MIL).

We stayed in Portland at my SIL’s apartment for the final night of our trip.

While in Portland, we mostly got around by bike, other than the trip from and to the airport.  We shared a rental car with Matthew’s mom.  My MIL shouldered most of the work of shuttling other people around in the car, and we enjoyed most of our time in Portland car-free.*

Over the course of six days (not counting the bike-free day when we drove to Silver Falls), we put in 60 bicycle miles in Portland.  Our highest mileage day was 14 miles, and our lowest was 9 miles.  If anything, I expected those numbers to be higher.  It felt like we were all around the town.  I guess the lower than expected mileage is a testament to Portland’s density?


We covered a lot of southeast Portland, some of northeast, and a bit of northwest.

For us, the rental car was essential for our day hike at Silver Falls State Park and the side trip to Crater Lake, and it was nice for getting to/from the airport (but we could have taken a cab), and otherwise a huge PITA (long wait for pick-up at the airport, then arguing that we had reserved/needed a 4-door vehicle vs. the 2-door they were trying to stick us with, then having to swap cars after two days due to brake and electrical issues).

While we were in Portland, we were on the “bakery-a-day” plan (good thing we were doing all that biking!).  The bulk of our pastries came from Ken’s Artisan Bakery and St. Honoré Boulangerie.  At Ken’s, we love the Oregon croissant (though we weren’t quite as impressed this trip, compared to last time), the vegetable quiche, and the cannele.  At St. Honoré, we love the mirliton (a small tart, filled with almond batter and fruit — two years ago we had pear; this trip, they had cherry, which was amazing!) and the cannele; we also had a nice chocolate croissant here.

We tried one new bakery this trip, Crema.  Matthew liked their fruit danishes, though I wasn’t amazed (not enough cream cheesy filling and too much of a sweet glaze — I like my pastries barely sweet).  I enjoyed a piece of their chocolate espresso bread (heavy on the chocolate, light on the espresso).

Outside of bakeries, my favorite food came from Pad Thai Kitchen (on SE Belmont), Boke Bowl, and ¿Por Que No? Taqueria.  We ate at another Thai place and a French place that were okay, but not remarkable.  It is quite possible that we spent as much money at bakeries over the course of the trip as we did on food at restaurants.

Vegetarian rice bowl at Boke -- the tofu in here was amazing!
Vegetarian rice bowl at Boke — the tofu in here was amazing!

The other food highlight that I should mention is the delicious paella served at my SIL’s wedding, from none other than a catering place that makes only paella.  They knocked the vegetarian version out of the park with delicious white beans, mushrooms, artichokes, and other veggies.

Because we had full kitchens at all of our places, we also did a decent bit of eating in, which helped budget-wise, and nutrition-wise, too (ensuring we ate at least some beans and had some grain variety).  This option was also very nice in Prospect, where dining options were limited (grocery options were also quite limited in the area around Crater Lake, so plan accordingly).

Things to do
So, what did we do other than riding our bikes from bakery to bakery?  Mostly lots of low-key stuff.

We visited a couple of playgrounds with Gabriel — easy, free, and fun way to pass time with a little one.

Playground at Dawson Park in N/NE Portland

Other than renting the Bullitt, our only paid entertainment was a visit to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), which felt like a blend of the Science Museum and the Magic House in St. Louis (paid admission, unlike our Science Center).  You could probably spend an entire day at OMSI, but our visit was limited to just a couple of hours, which, after torturing Gabriel by walking through the [to him terrifying] dinosaur exhibit, were mostly spent in the Science Playground, a wing just for the 6-and-under crowd.


The Science Playground had a sandbox!  With construction equipment!  Sir was in heaven.

We did a bit of shopping in the stores around the 3500 block of SE Hawthorne, as well as a quick visit to Powell’s books in downtown Portland.  (I was disappointed to discover Powell’s was not just used books, but rather a mix of new and used.  They also don’t have a “used” section; rather, the used books are mixed in with the new, and, at least for children’s books, their offerings seemed to skew heavily toward new.)

Most of our remaining time was spent with family and new friends, celebrating my SIL’s wedding (for which Gabriel was a ring bearer).

That’s all for now, though I have at least two more trip-related posts, one on Crater Lake and one on bike infrastructure in Portland (I made myself take pictures this time around!).

 *Between the rental car and the borrowed bikes, we didn’t end up using public transit, but a friend told me that Portland has a great app that makes it very easy for a visitor to use the system to get around (assuming you have a smart phone).





We spent Sunday at the airport . . .


. . . where we took full advantage of the new play area near the C gates in the main terminal before boarding our flight.


Flying direct was nice in many ways, but it did make for a long time in the air.  I was hoping someone’s nap would be closer to two hours rather than less than one, but at least he took a nap, and we managed the rest of the time without too much trouble.

I’m very glad we chose to put him in the car seat on the plane, as having a structured place (vs. swimming in an adult-sized plane seat and/or squirming all over our laps) really helped, both with napping and in general.

A little over four hours later, we arrived in Portland!  Hard to believe we were here almost exactly two years ago, when The Dude was a lot smaller and had a lot less hair.

Flashback photo
Flashback photo


Our “settling in” day involved acquiring food and bicycles.  What more do you need?

After a morning grocery stock-up, we swung by my sister-in-law and soon-to-be brother-in-law’s place to pick up the bikes and trailer we’re borrowing for the week, then biked the five miles back to our rental house (similar to our last visit, we avoided streets with bike lanes as much as possible, sticking to “bike boulevards” (AKA neighborhood greenways) or plain ol’ streets.


After nap time, we headed out to find a playground for Sir.  The closest playground happened to be located at Mt. Tabor Park, which put our hill climbing skills to the test.  In addition to the playground, we were rewarded with some great views.


We’re looking forward to more outings by bike (being driven around in the rental car made me grumpy and carsick), including renting a Bullitt cargo bike from Splendid Cycles for a day!

Yesterday, Matthew and I enjoyed a day trip to Silver Falls State Park (just south of Portland) for some lovely waterfall-heavy hiking.


We saw eight(!) waterfalls over the course of a 9-mile [loop] hike.

The only downside so far is HOT and no air-conditioning in our rental house, but it cooled off a decent bit yesterday (our hike was not hot, so we weren’t too tempted to go swimming), plus we’re moving to a different rental place that might have A/C and is more centrally located, to boot!*

*We’re not relocating because of the A/C, but rather had planned previously to spend the first few nights at my MIL’s rental before moving to our own place.

Portland eats

We embarked on our Portland trip with a long list of recommended restaurants, and a good bit of our time there (and most of the money we spent) revolved around food — the norm for us.  We needed plenty of good food to fuel our week of biking, walking, and hiking in and around Portland.

We didn’t have time to hit everywhere on our list, so we prioritized eateries and food that we are less likely to find in StL, with a few home-cooked meals interspersed, to sate our love of cooking and save a bit of money.

Our first meal out in Portland was lunch at a farmers’ market, where we enjoyed artichoke-goat cheese tamales.  That evening, we had burritos at Cha Cha Cha — the Oregon Harvest burrito was our favorite.  Despite being stuffed, the neighboring ice cream shop lured us in for a scoop of amazing browned butter almond brittle, which we shared as we walked home.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed “The Oregon” pastry from Ken’s Artisan Bakery, house-made ramen noodles at Boke Bowl, ice cream at Ruby Jewel, and Ethiopian take-out from Queen of Sheba.

Over the weekend, we drove to the coast to camp in yurts and enjoy some grilled goodies.  I took charge of the grilled corn project, with unexpectedly good results (stay tuned for tutorial post).

The feast also included grilled bread with delicious Oregon tomatoes, grilled crackers with smoked Brie, veggie dogs, and baked beans.

The only thing missing was hot chocolate (it was cold at the coast!).  We remedied that with a stop at Cacao for some drinking chocolate, but not until Monday when we were back in Portland.

Other than chocolate (and more pastries), our final days included not one, but two (very different) Thai meals, homemade injera stew (recipe later this week), and a vegan BBQ food truck.

The [very] spicy mushroom salad at Pok Pok, which is known for authentic Thai street food.

Our vegan BBQ meal included tempeh ribs, seitan pastrami, and some tasty sweet potato fries.

We capped off our visit with a date night at Kuhn Pic’s Bahn Thai.  Tucked into an old Victorian house, Kuhn Pic’s is a labor of love for couple who run it (she cooks, he takes care of the front of the house).

The restaurant puts the S-L-O-W in “slow food,” which is important to know ahead of time — have a good-sized late afternoon/early evening snack, plan on spending at least two hours there, and you’ll be ready to enjoy some beautiful and delicious Thai food.

Our feast included the spring rolls, with the amazing peanut sauce for dipping, and two entries we shared — pad see ew and drunken noodles.  We left tired and happy, my head filled with crazy ideas of attempting some kind of similar restaurant concept in StL.

Bike Portland

I knew I couldn’t go to Portland without experiencing the bike scene firsthand, so I was thrilled when Matthew’s sister told us she would have bikes and a trailer for us.  There would also be two extra adult helmets awaiting us, so, with Gabriel’s helmet in our checked bag, we were good to go.

When we arrived, we toured the Bike Cave and saw our rides for the week – two shiny blue road bikes and a Burley double wide trailer.  I was a bit apprehensive about Gabriel in the trailer, since he very much prefers the front seat at home (as do I), but after looking at it, we’d decided it didn’t really make sense to bring the IBert with us.  (The seat is small compared to a trailer, but it would have required another checked bag.)

As anyone who bikes often knows, there’s no bike quite like YOUR bike.  Matthew and I both missed our properly fitted bikes, nose-less  saddles, and more upright riding positions.  That said, bringing our own bikes on this trip really wasn’t feasible, so having two nice bikes, outfitted with locks and lights, no less, at our disposal for the week was quite nice.

Our first ride was a short jaunt to a weekday downtown farmers’ market.  We used the Broadway Bridge to cruise into downtown, noting that we’d be heading uphill on the return trip.  After lunch at the market, we headed home for Gabriel’s nap.

Unfortunately, as Matthew was shifting on the uphill approach to the bridge, his chain derailed.  Hot midday sun, chain wedged tightly, tired and uncomfortable baby, stressed parents, and baby falling asleep in trailer and being rudely awakened combined for a not so great return trip and the decision to trade in the bikes for feet for the rest of that day.

In the interest of maximizing our time and trying to keep to a fairly regular nap schedule (and because Matthew, especially, was uncomfortable on the bike), we compromised and made more trips in the car than I would have preferred, but such is life these days.

On Saturday morning, Matthew and I enjoyed a solo bike ride to visit a couple of bakeries and make a grocery run in preparation for our trip to the Oregon coast.  I enjoyed shopping at the Trader Joe’s located right in the middle of Portland – very accessible by bike.

So . . . a few thoughts and observations on biking in Portland
Well, I am pleased to report that I did not get ticketed or arrested for refusing to let the paint think for me (i.e., obey their mandatory bike lane statute) while cycling around the city.

Going into the “Best Biking City in America,” the number of cars surprised (and disappointed) me.  But after putting things into perspective (bikes make up a 6-8% mode share in Portland, which, while huge compared to most American cities, still means that less than one out of ten trips are made by bicycle) and settling in a bit, I did notice some differences.

First, hanging out at the house in the evenings, we heard a slow but steady stream of cyclists passing by on the small street, something that does not happen on our similarly sized street at home in St. Louis.  Second, most motorists seemed pretty tuned in to interactions with other road users (both cyclists and pedestrians).  Most surprising to me were the multiple occasions where four lanes of traffic stopped at an intersection (when they didn’t have to, unless there’s some ordinance I’m not aware of) to allow bicyclists stopped at a stop sign on the smaller cross street to cross.  Without this courtesy, we would have been waiting quite awhile for a break in the traffic.

Most of these interactions happened at intersections on bikeways.  In Portland, bikeways are regular streets (open to all types of vehicle traffic) that have just a few tweaks to make them better for bicycling – well-placed sharrows, 20MPH speed limits, and minimal stop signs.  Some of the bikeways have low, broad speed bumps, designed to not be a big deal for bikes, while still serving as traffic calming for motor vehicles.

On the other hand . . .
The “bike accommodations” on the bridges were basically extra wide sidewalks.  I felt pretty uncomfortable riding across the Broadway Bridge, with the relatively low height of the railing and my higher center of gravity on the bike.  I wouldn’t have wanted to ride there in heavier bike traffic, because I felt a simple crash could send me plunging into the river far below.

In such a situation, I would have been better off traveling in the normal traffic lanes (especially for the downhill trip), but I’m not sure what reception I would have received from other drivers (both car and bike) for not being where I was “supposed” to be.

On that note, I did hear one person tell us to get on the sidewalk/bike lane as we approached the bridge that first day, right before the unfortunate chain incident, so even Portland has its ignorant and discourteous types.

I also saw plenty of bicyclists who could use a good cycling education course, though I have to admit that figuring out the various types of bike facilities at the same time I was navigating a new city made my own actions a bit less predictable than ideal.

We preferred the routes with “regular” streets or the bikeways to roads with bike lanes.  When we found ourselves on the bike lane roads, we usually opted out of using them, or rode in them with EXTREME caution, mindful of the dangers of being in a less visible position.

All in all, it was a good experience.  Navigating a new city by any mode can be a bit intimidating, but I’d rather figure things out on a bike (or on foot) than in a car any day of the week.  Gabriel did much better in the trailer than I expected, and we all enjoyed experiencing Portland by it’s most heralded (if still a minority) form of transportation.

I hopped off the plane at PDX with my babe and a carry-on

Hi there!  For those not in the airport code know, we recently returned from a little trip to Portland, Oregon.  With a 14-month along for the ride, it was most definitely NOT a vacation, but all-in-all, things went well.

We enjoyed our time and our adventures eating, biking, and hiking our way around Portland and surrounding areas.  We definitely had the too much to do/too little time issue, and between that and the aforementioned babe toddler, we stumbled, rather than hopped, off the plane back in StL.

Unfortunately, Portland tales and pictures will have to wait until later in the week, because we returned home to no internet.  Long story short, let’s just say it’s a shitty situation (literally), and I’m in serious email/blog/net-surfing withdrawal.