Portland, 16-Feb 2014

Melody and I decided to take part of the Presidents' Day long weekend and ride the train down to Portland for a few days. Because of lodging availability, we settled on leaving Sunday, returning Wednesday. We knew we'd have to work around things being closed either on Sunday or on the holiday, but figured there would be more than enough to do. We also had alternate plans if it ended up raining a lot.

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We opted for the early train, since that would give us most of the first day in Portland. We have the routine down, having done it a few times already. We arrived at King Street Station not long after Amtrak started handing out seating assignments, then only had to wait about 15 minutes before we could board. Doing so, you have to be careful about which car you board, since the cars are only marked on one end; the car number is also indicated on a sign on the inside, but it's easy to miss. There were about four rows of people near us who were all in the wrong car, but they were gracious as they gathered their belongings.

The train pulled out of the station about a minute early, and we were on our way. We left the gray skies of Seattle and saw a lot of sun all the way until we got close to the Oregon border, where the skies turned gray again.

As we got close to Vancouver, WA we slowed down and had to wait for freight traffic to clear. The conductor said we were literally about one minute away from the station, so once we were allowed to move, we wouldn't have far to go. Then, as we got close to Portland, once again we had to wait for freight traffic, this time about five minutes out of the station. Once we were allowed to pass, our train was supposed to go more slowly than usual because the other train was relatively wide. Even so, we arrived just about on time.

Upon exiting Union Station, the rain started as we headed west on Glisan to the hostel. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we dropped off our bags, grabbed a quick lunch, and caught the light rail back to the Willamette River. A couple blocks later, we walked south a bit along the river to the Hawthorne Bridge.

 Hawthorne Bridge

Hawthorne Bridge

There are several bridges in Portland which cross the Willamette, and so far I've only been across a few of them. By walking over the Hawthorne Bridge, I was able to check off another one. It has a fully-grated deck, three separated lanes, and two pedestrian/bike lanes. Like the Steel Bridge, the center section lifts vertically for river traffic.

Once on the east side of the Willamette, we were on the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, a trail which follows the river. At one point there's no room next to I-5 so it goes out onto the river itself. After going back to land, the trail meets up with the Steel Bridge, which we took back across. We were lucky that the rain had mostly let up, and by the time we were walking the Esplanade, it had stopped, allowing us to take our time to look at things.

 Eastbank Eplanade

Eastbank Eplanade

 Steel Bridge

Steel Bridge

 Long line at the Salt and Straw

Long line at the Salt and Straw

It was a little early for our room to be ready, so of course we needed to find ice cream. We went to a very crowded Salt and Straw. You order towards at the back of the store, and the line started just at the front door. Melody grabbed a table while I waited in line, since there was a menu in the window and we knew what we wanted to try: sea salt with caramel for me, coffee with bourbon for her. People in the line were able to request samples, and one of the scoopers walked out with about eight spoons, handing them out to the people who wanted the tastes. We quickly finished up and freed the table, and upon leaving saw the line was even longer out the door.

Last summer we stayed upstairs in the main building, in a huge room. This time we were in the guesthouse, a separate, older building (with push-button switches, even). Again, the size of the room was quite generous, and there's a bay window overlooking the street.

Time for dinner. After examining several options, we opted for a diner a few blocks away. The place was very empty, with us being the only customers. The server gave us menus, and warned us that they had been busier than usual on Valentine's Day, in addition to the whole restaurant changing owners and themes at the end of the month. He then proceeded to rattle off all the things which they ran out of, but fortunately we were eyeing other items. We did our usual of ordering a couple things then switching off; the server seemed pretty surprised at that when he came out to check on how we were doing.

Back to the hostel to settle in for the evening. We were somewhat tired, since it had been an early morning and a busy day.