On Oregon, And A Second Chance for Portland

Way out west, just before you drive off into the Pacific Ocean, is an idyllic land, not too hot, not too cold, ocean beaches reaching up to mountain peaks, where they dance and brew beer and grow grapes and make wine. There’s a healthy blend of liberal cities and conservative everywhere-else-land. It ties Washington for the highest concentration of volcanoes in North America, but—I suspect—they flow with milk and honey instead of lava.

We’re talking, of course, of Oregon. This state gets our vote for the most beautiful state in the union. It’s true we haven’t been to all of them, but we’ve been to most.

Oregon figured into our Western America road trip twice: once as we passed through on our way north to Seattle (we wrote recently about our stop at Crater Lake National Park) and again after we left Seattle (blogs on the Emerald City still to come). It’s a big state (the 9th largest in the union), quietly sitting out west, seemingly content to let neighbors California and Washington draw the rest of the nation’s attentions. When Lewis and Clark reached Oregon’s shores, they said, “That’s it, we’re done, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

The Beautiful Central Oregon Coast
The Beautiful Central Oregon Coast


We won’t steal too much of our own blog thunder and talk today about specific sights we saw in Oregon, but instead we’ll just say that Oregon is chock-full of wonderful diversity. Aside from Portland, Salem, and the university towns along I-5, it’s as conservative a state as Georgia or Mississippi—we saw more confederate flag adorned pickup trucks the last few weeks in Oregon than we saw our last time back home in the South—yet it was the third state to legalize recreational marijuana use. There are few states where you can surf in the morning and snow ski in the afternoon, and no state’s known quite as well for the production of the “trifecta” of American beverages of choice: beer, wine, and coffee.

And no state has Portlandia…

This was Lori’s first visit to Oregon. I’ve been before. I visited Portland once on a business trip a few years back. I’ve been running out of new American cities to visit for a while, and I had heard that Portland was awesome, perhaps the coolest, most interesting city in the western hemisphere. “Just like Seattle,” Portlanders would tell me, “we have our own volcano, and ours is better.” Naturally, I was excited on that business trip to go see for myself.

My impression of Portland from that visit was rather different than my expectations. I found an industrial river city with graffiti, plenty of homeless people, and derelict-looking bridges. In short, my first impression of Portland was that it was, sadly, just like any other city. Considering Chuck’s Theorem of Travel Types, which states that business travel destinations suck and leisure travel destinations are great, I decided Portland deserved a second—a leisure—chance.

So now, having spent a good bit more leisure time in Portland, I have a fresh perspective. It’s a city of and for young people, with a clean downtown area jam-packed with hip and funky bars and restaurants, surrounded by an industrial-looking river, graffiti, plenty of homeless people, and derelict-looking bridges. But I agree, Portland’s volcano (Mount Hood) is pretty damn cool-looking, and it didn’t explode while we were near it, which is always a plus.

I guess I still don’t quite “get” Portland, so maybe I’m not as cool as I thought. But at least they have hip and funky bars. And you can smoke pot if you want.

Cape Meares Lighthouse, Oregon
Cape Meares Lighthouse, Oregon

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