Stories from Portland
Earlier this month I traveled to Portland, OR solo ... similar to a big road trip to Bozeman, MT that I did solo last June. I've wanted to visit Portland for years and when I found an Aeroplan flight (I had almost enough points for two flights so I was itching to use some of them) with really good connections on dates that worked for me, I thought "why not?"
I made some plans of things to do but it was very much just a wander and explore type of trip.
Here's just a few stories from my four days in Portland.
First things first.
Portland has a plethora of donut shops so naturally within my four days of being there I ate at two of them—Blue Star and Pips. I chose to skip the classic VooDoo Doughnut because I'd been there twice in Denver in recent years.
On my first flight home the man sitting beside me on my flight had a box of Blue Star donuts in his hand. As he sat down I made a sarcastic, friendly comment like, "I suppose you're going to eat donuts beside me the whole flight, aren't you?" to which he replied with, "of course!"
He never did but after a bit of chatting (and after he showed me the box of VooDoo in his bag) I learned that he was a native to Portland and on his way to Calgary with donuts along for some people to do a taste comparison. This got us talking in-depth about donuts as if we were some kind of donut connoisseurs. . .
VooDoo is your whimsical donut shop. Go here if you like your donuts covered in candy and cereal. We agreed that it is still pretty good, despite its wildly decorated donuts.
Blue Star Donuts is your newer hipster donut shop. Their flavours are trendy and creative but a bit more modest in toppings. They claim they are the donuts for grown ups but I disagree—I found both the donuts I tried overwhelmingly sweet. We agreed that Blue Star was a bit overrated.
Pips Original Doughnuts and Chai is your true classic donut (or mini donuts). With only six flavours and all with just subtle differences from the others they've mastered the art of keeping donuts simple and we agreed that classic donuts are best. Pips has kept the beauty of what makes a donut good: fried dough, cinnamon sugar, and very little of something else if you wish (drizzle of honey, nutella, jam, maple bacon crumbles, etc). And don't confuse these with your basic mini donuts you get at fairs and average food trucks (although Pips does run a food truck)—they're much better than that.
I'm not sure what his official stance was but I am obviously Team Pips.
On Friday, my first day there, I found myself wandering around downtown after biking down there from the northeast Alberta St area. Originally I wasn't too interested in Powells bookstore ("Is it just like a really big bookstore? Who cares, I can buy books anywhere...") but there I was in the giant bookstore and then somehow about an hour had passed.
By the time I actually made it to the cashier I managed to narrow down my wish list a lot, tossing things out of my basket as quick as I put them in.
To conclude this overall day of nothingness besides gaining my bearings in a new city, the typography case is a simple reminder of how to be. Typography wouldn't give us the option if it was all meant to look (be) the same.
Go with it
The bike ride back to my Airbnb from downtown on Friday was . . . fun. Between stopping every few blocks to confirm my direction and actually going the wrong way multiple times, it took me about an hour to bike home even though Google maps told me 26 minutes. I don't know how I went so wrong but every time I thought I was going the right way I would check my phone for directions and sure enough, I was wrong again. After a very long ride north on 7th and 9th Ave, I made it back.
After a brief nap before going out for the night, I promptly decided I was done biking for the day.
The moments where I naively thought I was going in the right direction and was enjoying the new scenery and of course the moments when I realized I was lost once again and laughed at myself—I liked them all. Sometimes just going with it, and maybe being a little lost, is what we need most.
Besides, we're never truly lost when we have an iPhone in our pockets.
When I'm home, I keep my diet in check. I do the flexible dieting thing and track my food intake in MyFitnessPal and have for a couple years. It's easy for me to do these days and helps keep bodyweight maintained and performance in the gym in order.
But when I travel, I track nothing. It gives my mind a break from it. I eat what I want. Sometimes I make good choices out of habit, sometimes I don't. Later in the day on Saturday was a good example of when I don't make the best choices, unapologetically so. Life is short?
Currently about 4 PM. I had to return my rental bike by the store closing time of 5 PM. I also had left my bike helmet at the Airbnb that day (sorry, Mom), so I had to bike back there to get it before biking to drop the bike off. I knew I could make it but I would have to hurry and I had just quickly drank a high potent 12 oz margarita. Totally safe.
I did make it, for the record, by about ten minutes. After dropping the bike off, I casually walked down Alberta St for awhile before going back to the house.
And by casual I mean I was mostly on a straight mission:
Around 8 PM I was on my way to be dropped off at the night's venue when I noticed we drove past the SE location of Sizzle Pie—and only about a block past. I saw this the day prior when I was downtown and passed but the convenience of this location at that moment had me rethinking it, especially after some encouragement from my Uber driver.
Technically, it had been a good four hours since I had eaten an actual meal and truthfully I was kind of hungry. I didn't really need to persuade myself further.
"One slice of 'south of heaven,' please."
A few moments later, I was satisfied and a little more ready for some music.
Saturday night I went to a show at the Doug Fir Lounge. I actually didn't know much about the band at all but Airbnb had a list of 'things to do in Portland' and this lounge/music venue was one of the things on the list. I googled it, it looked nice, and then I looked up Kuinka on Spotify about a week beforehand after seeing that they had a show there that night.
"Yep ... sold." Plans are so easy to make when you travel alone.
Once I made my way through the whole bar, almost ran into myself in a mirror upstairs multiple times (including in the very small but very large looking bathroom), I found the stage area in the basement. The decor was entirely wood—the acoustics were great. The band was super energetic compared to their album and hella talented with an array of different instruments being played at all times. I danced, I made friends with a few strangers, and it was just fun.
And then I saw him—a maybe 55-60 year old white-haired man jamming along to a catchy song in the front row (you can see him in the photo above). I looked around and confirmed that he was one of the oldest people in a crowd of mostly 20 and 30-somethings and then I watched him again for a moment. He seemed brave to me. He didn't care if anyone was judging him as people often do when a person actually lets their guard down in a social setting; he was just having a good time.
Music is great in that you can show up to a show you're kind of interested in by yourself and then you sort of let your guard down, end up having a great time, and you forget that you don't know a single person there.
Mistakenly Brave was my favourite song from that night. Check it out on Spotify.
Go your own way
On Sunday I took a little day trip to Cannon Beach, OR. I love the ocean and the thought of only being an hour and a half away from it meant that I needed to make it happen. At first thought I was going to rent a car and drive myself but this time my mother the travel agent convinced me to save a few (not that many) dollars and take an Amtrak/Greyhound bus. After about 20 minutes of arriving at the train station on Sunday morning I realized this was a terrible mistake.
So anyway, a very boring bus ride later (driving is much more fun), I made it to the beach around 11 AM, grabbed a large coffee from the Sleepy Monk, and then wandered in a way that I assumed was toward the ocean.
After lunch (which was on a patio with a view of the pacific—didn't hate it) I went for a little walk around the very small beach town. When I was on a street of beachfront houses and facing the ocean again, I saw a steep stairway down towards the beach. "Well I guess I should go back to the beach anyway since that is why I'm here..." so I went down the stairs and through the 'secret' tunnel covered in trees leading to the same beach I was on before.
It was the same destination with my own little way of getting to it—and it was a better way.
I saw something on social media about a free 30 minute yoga class at the same place (shared building) that I had planned on going to for breakfast that morning. "Free yoga? Bonus."
So I showed up and it turned out to be a free 30 minute meditation class (not a yoga class) and I was the only one there besides the instructor. I suppose you could say I got a one-on-one lesson in meditating that morning and while most people would find this awkward (okay, I did find it a bit awkward at first), I fully took in the awkwardness for what it was.
I ended up learning a few basic things about relaxing, breathing, and mindfulness—all things I struggle with. When it was over we did a few easy stretches, gave ourselves foot massages, talked about fitness, and then he gave me advice on what to order for breakfast at Carioca Bowls.
I guess showing up that morning was a pretty good accident for my last day in Portland. The rest of my last day was spent just walking—walking to get donuts, walking to a park, walking to get lunch, and walking back to my Airbnb to get my bags before heading to the airport.
It was a peaceful day of anonymity and nothingness and sometimes, we need these days.