Last Friday my wife and I left the PDX zone and carved our way up the Columbia River Gorge. This is our humble travel blog.
Why is this called the “BBB Edition?” The clever reader will find three “B” words carefully hidden within this post that will illuminate. See if you can find them all.
Once again that special time of year is nigh upon us. The holidays. Where we gather with family and friends around fire and hearth to poke at each other’s eyeballs with forks.
Run. I mean that in a T-Rex-is-gaining-on-us-in-the-Jeep sort of way.
From time to time my wife will venture out to work for the Portland elite to line her pocketses with a few handfuls of coppers. She hangs out her shingle as consultant and efficiency expert. That means, of course, employers will spend their entire day trying to trick her into changing diapers, walking the dog and running to Starbucks for another Cornucopia of Venti.
The following is a true story. No embellishment.
It was Thanksgiving. The husband’s parents arrived for a two-week stay. The day after Thanksgiving the wife took off, on her own, to vacation separately in Palm Springs until the in-laws had safely left town.
Why didn’t I think of that?! Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid. Me so stupid! Me bad.
With the in-laws left home alone, the husband locked himself away in the office. The nanny watched their children. And the mother-in-law proceeded to grill household staff. “What the hell does she do around here, anyway?”
God bless us, every one.
I live in Portland, Oregon, which mostly receives electrical power from Portland General Electric. Founded in 1888 the company was eventually owned by Enron Corporation from 1997 until 2006 until Enron went bankrupt.
See? I just used a writing technique known as foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing is a literary device by which an author hints what is to come.
By dropping the name Enron, you are now on notice that this story does not bode well. The portends are decidedly not in our favor. It’s time to omen up.
Yes, I’m being mysterious. I’m trying to leave you in the dark. Just like Portland General. Bazinga!
Being a major metropolitan area, the City of Portland is designed with security and reliability in mind. Power outages simply do not happen unless:
- The wind blows up to one (1) mph
- A squirrel gets hungry
- Water magically falls from the sky
- A drunk person, in a trillion-to-one event, rams their car into a pole
Such simple criteria means the city loses power about every 42 minutes. Who knew that cramming 625,000 people in the same area would make stuff happen? Yes, I live in a city where squirrels are frequently blamed for power outages.
At least Portland is safe. No one, not even a terrorist, could ever fuck with this city unless:
- A tweaked out kid needs to take a whiz in a city resevoir
- The wind blows and a branch falls and an entire power grid goes haywire
- Water magically falls from the sky
Portland has many names. The City of Roses. Bridgetown. Stumpdown. Rip City. Little Beirut. PDX. Cloud City. But, during autumn at least, it could also be known as The City of Leaves. (Leaves are the unpredictable byproduct of shitloads of trees.) And the city has a great strategy for dealing with them. “Clean ’em up your own damn self. You want your storm drains to work? Better get on it. By the way, we’re adding a street fee. You need to pay more taxes for this.”
So it rained on Sunday. We were out running errands. We had to retrace our steps. We drove through St. Johns. Then it started to rain. An hour later we went through the same area. It had already flooded the size of Lake Erie. It wasn’t even a heavy rain.
There had been a few brief gusts of wind. So, yeah, the power was already out. We pulled into a bar just as thunderous lightning spooked everyone in the place. They were amazed. Lightning? Wowwee. Perhaps Portland has exactly the power company it deserves?
We continued on our way and that’s when I noticed it. The traffic signals were are dark. None of them were red. None were yellow. None were green.
You know what that means, right? The entire city went Starman on steroids. Perhaps we can add “Starport City USA” to our lengthy list of nicknames?
[Starman is driving the car, and speeds across a recently turned red light, causing crashes for the other motorists]
Jenny Hayden: Okay? Are you crazy? You almost got us killed! You said you watched me, you said you knew the rules!
Starman: I do know the rules.
Jenny Hayden: Oh, for your information pal, that was a *yellow* light back there!
Starman: I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.
Apparently the collective wisdom of the hipster lumbersexuals in PDX is this: No street light, go very fast.
That’s weird because the law says an unpowered traffic signal is to be treated as a four-way stop. It’s so weird that no one in Portland knew that. Keep Portland weird.
So we sat at an intersection watching an endless stream of cars whiz by at top speed and we never got a turn. To pass the time we celebrated several birthdays. And I plotted revenge. Now I understand where Joker, Riddler and Penguin are coming from.
This may be my last blog post for a while. I’ve decided to keep my computer turned off when I think Portland General will be unable to keep the grid powered. By my calculations that means I’ll have a 42-minute window of electricity per day.
Next up, on Iron Skillet Chef America our celebrity judge feels he’s entitled to share his opinions. Alloy cuisine!!! –Ed.
As a proud “native Oregonian” I’ve lived in Portland, on and off, since 1981. I’ve been to a few places to eat along the way. From food carts to neighborhood pub n’ grubs to world class cuisine, Portland has a veritable plethora of long waiting lines guaranteed to satisfy most any connoisseur of the latest trendy thing.
Voodoo Doughnut? I’ve never been. The line has always been too damn long. Who has that kind of time for a doughnut with bacon on it? My trick? Go to two different places, grab a doughnut from a regular place and a side of bacon from a diner. Voila! I call that Voodoo without the wait. When you’re downtown you’ll people toting around with their little pink boxes of Voodoo doughnuts as if to say, “Look at me! I did the wait!” Pro Tip: That pink box goes really well with plaid.
We drove from Portland to Spokane taking a route that paralleled the mighty Columbia River. If you’ve never been this way you’ve missed out on some amazing and breathtaking views. It’s an incredible drive. The Columbia Gorge was carved a few years ago, maybe more, leaving geological formations that have to be seen to be believed.
Meanwhile, somewhere along the trip, there’s a nice stretch of highway that was level and straight. So I put on the cruise control. We were in no particular hurry so I set a leisurely pace. Everyone was passing us, even the RVs and the pickup trucks hauling horse trailers.
We then had a couple Cruise Control Events that boggled my mind more than the Gorge itself.
One is called the Go and Stop. In this scenario you see a car in your rear view mirror. Gradually they gain on you. Eventually they ride your bumper with about six inches clearance. Finally they reach a decision point and make their signature move.
They pass and cut me off. Again, with six inches of clearance.
And then, somehow, the unthinkable. They slow down.
I’m forced to turn off the cruise control and wonder why my Ford Pinto didn’t come equipped with rocket launchers.
Stephen Hawking himself would be unable to explain this behavior.
The second event involved a car merging on the highway in the middle of nowhere. Again my cruise control was set and I was minding my own business. I became aware that someone was merging. I became aware it was a sheriff’s patrol car.
We were two cars converging on the same spot. Closer and closer he moved towards me. I could feel his hot and sticky breath on my neck. With amazing grace he matched our speed. This must be what docking in outer space is like.
Closer. Closer. Our cars were about to kiss.
Finally, I screamed out in anger and frustration. I hit the brake and he slid smoothly in front. The moment was lost. I had to admit it was a bit anti-climactic.
Bonus: During this trip I came up with my latest invention. It’s a holographic projector for your car that creates a three dimensional image of a vehicle exactly two car lengths in front. This causes other drivers to stay the fuck out of your personal space. I anticipate this invention will make me several trillion dollars.
This post was written on an iPad. I hope you appreciate my sacrifice.
The people in the self-described “weird” city of Portland, Oregon are serious about many things. Like roses, microbrew, recycling, bridges, kale, bicycling, front yard gardens, cafés with garage doors, beards, fedoras, the Trailblazers, dogs and, last but not least, trees. These are but a few of our favorite things.
We were lucky enough to be the recipients of a new tree in our front yard courtesy of a non-profit organization that plants and cares for trees in metro areas. We also routinely have a CAR2GO parked down the block but that’s another story.
What we didn’t know was that this tree was the harbinger of a new long-term relationship in our lives. These trees like to put down roots.
Taking on the responsibility of a tree is a serious matter. It’s nothing to bark at.
We recently received our second report card (in the form of a flyer on our door) based on a personalized visit to our home. Yes, in a crazy mixed-up world where abused children often go unnoticed and sadly fall through the cracks, our baby tree is lavished with love, support and attention. If only the government could run with this much efficiency.
I thought I’d end this post by leafing you with a description of our tree parenting grades. I told my wife we should have redshirted the bastard but no one ever listens to me. Now our graduation ceremony marking us as successful tree companions is in danger of going timber.
Soil: Mixed. Ours was rated “a little dry.”
Mulch: Thumbs down. Ouch. But they said they’ll take care of it.
Root Zone: Thumbs up.
Bark: Thumbs up.
Canopy: Thumbs up.
Sucker Growth: Thumbs up. (Apparently we got a waiver for me to remain on the property.)
Overall Grade: Double secret probation.
There was nary a gold star on our report card. Apparently we’re falling down on the job. But we did get a nice thank you doing our part to help the “urban forest” grow.
In the comments section they also noted that we have failed to properly christen Junior with a name for his root certificate. I’ve purchased some baby name books and we hope to accomplish this soon. I’ve already got a bottle of champagne ready to smash on his/her trunk. Hopefully the christening procedure won’t hurt our Bark Rating.
No trees were harmed during the creation of this post.
We consider ourselves fairly typical Americans. It was a few nights before the Fourth of July, decidedly my least favorite night of the year. We were in our living room, sitting on our asses and watching TV. Like I said, typical.
Suddenly there was a boom. I looked out the front window and billowing smoke rose from our front yard garden. It had begun.
“Those fireworks are close,” I said. “Damn close.” The shit was literally raining down right on top of us.
On July 4th itself I went outside to see what the hell was going on. I saw one of those colorful bursts like you’d see in any major fireworks display except it was directly over my house. It went off about 20-30 feet over our roof. Two things were immediately obvious: Why don’t they do this shit above their own houses? They’re too good for that! And, wow, they are really good shots. We were being targeted.
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