Oregon or Bust!

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Oregon Silhouette

I’ve just returned from nearly two months working in Portland, Oregon. It was somewhat frustrating on a professional level, but my work there gave me a wonderful opportunity to experience a part of the country I’d never been in before. All-in-all, I really enjoyed being in Portland.

I was sent out to Portland to provide technical support for work being performed on a ship going through a planned six week dry dock. I actually arrived one week before the ship did, arriving May 9, and acting as an advance party for receiving material and coordinating arrangements. I ended up staying a week longer than planned – which wasn’t really all that bad. 

My first impression was how friendly and courteous people were. Sure, I expect some amount of fixed professional smiles from hotel and restaurant staff. But from the first day, I felt people really cared about doing a good job and making a visitor’s stay pleasant. For example, in the two restaurants across the street from the hotel I stayed at, the waiters/waitresses all kept small personal notebooks they presented to customers with the check.

The purpose of the notebook was to give the customer the opportunity to write something – anything – about how much they enjoyed/didn’t enjoy their dining experience. The notebook covers were decorated with personal photos of the waitress/waiter’s family and small mementos. I enjoyed skimming though these notebooks just to see some of the previous comments. All the comments I read were decent and friendly. Personally, I thought offering a notebook for personal comments were pretty brave.

The hotel I stayed in, the Homewood Suites by Hilton, in Vancouver, Washington (just across the Columbia River from Portland) was absolutely one of the most comfortable hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I stayed at this hotel for the last three weeks in May and all of June, returning home on July 1. The hotel featured a free, excellent, breakfast buffet and a “happy hour” four nights each week featuring free beer, wine, soft drinks, and enough food to make for a decent supper. A free breakfast buffet is one thing – but this went way beyond the typical “continental breakfasts,” and included hot foods along with a do-it-yourself waffle maker (whipped cream and strawberries most mornings), along with pastries, breads, bagels, cereals, and assortment of fruits. The one young woman who managed the breakfast bar most mornings was always cheerful and took obvious pride in what she was doing. I also have to say the same for the two women who normally worked the evening happy hour.

Besides the hotel, I just enjoyed the ambiance of the area. The hotel was well away from the city, set right on the north shore of the Columbia River. The river had a wonderful walkway for better than a mile along the shore, dotted with small restaurants and turnoffs down to the river beaches. I made a point of jogging along here every evening I could, and there were always lots of other people out jogging, walking or just hanging out with friends along the walkway. Across the highway was a national historic site from the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Downtown Portland had a pleasant “old city renewed” feel to it. I made several trips to the flagship store for Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, which was just amazing. This location covered an entire city block, four stories high, and was full of new and used books for sale. Right in the area were many different restaurants, and one night a colleague and I ate at the historic Jake’s Grill, Portland, Oregon, a 140 year-old restaurant that also served excellent food.

I also found the local “Chinatown” district (the Pearl District) and explored the walkways along the Willamette River. Lots of activities in the downtown area, and it was my impression that the people were generally pound of their city.

Outside of the city area, I had the chance to explore the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood (up to the Timberline Lodge at the start of the snow cap), and doing some hiking along the trails leading to both locations. I didn’t need to go very far part the city limits to get into open forested country.

I also had the chance to go sailing. Twice I sailed on the Columbia River in a boat I rented from the Island Sailing Club, both times on days with rather light winds which made it hard to fight the current. The third time was a notable experience on a reservoir about two hours south of Portland, called the “Green Petit,” and a story all by itself.

Regrettably, I didn’t have as much time to explore as I would have liked. My work kept me pretty busy. I also tended to hang out at the hotel in the weeknight evenings so I could call Winnie. She was either working late nights or going to evening classes, and most nights did not get back home until after 10:00 PM – 7:00 PM my time. Since there were some evenings I didn’t finish work until about then anyway.

I could spend more time in Portland. I’m hoping I’ll have another opportunity to get back to that area again. And I’d like to give a big shout-out to all the people I met and worked with in the Portland area that helped make my visit there so memorable. THANKS!

Edited: April 3, 2014, for format and typographical errors.

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