Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week 2 in Stumptown

Still no sign of snow - but lots of sun! Apparently Portland has one of the highest rates of depression in the US - possibly attributed to the 222 overcast days per year - so I think we are getting pretty lucky since we've had a fair share of the nice days.

Did a couple of cool bike rides over the weekend sans Finn as we were relieved of him by Grandma Mac. Georgi and I did a ride on for historic Columbia River Highway - it is the 1920's vintage road through the Columbia River gorge and they have re-opened a 5 mile segment for bikes and walkers only. A perfectly smooth paved road with no cars - it even has a tunnel to bike through.

Watch this bike-video of the 1-mile downhill run at the end of the trail. (note the bobble at the end where I happen to notice a gate ahead coming up at the last minute!)

(Larger versions of these videos are here)

After the bike ride, went to Full Sail Brewing's tasting room in Hood River.

Then the next day, we did the the "Worst Day of the Year Ride" - which is a 18-mile recreational ride through the streets of Portland. 3500 people on bikes, silly costumes, lots of donuts and three-snack stops en-route.

Even a cool syncopated drummer band at the start. (see video)

After sending Grandma Mac back home, I went to the Portland Humpin' Hash House Harriers (Wednesday) - lets just say this hash was more about the beer than the running, and a much younger crowd. Not one, not two, but at least four beer checks enoute (there may have been 5 beer checks, but things were getting fuzzy). However, there was lots of good views along the run. The nice thing too is that the transit system is so good, I figured out how to get the hashes with bus +/- bike, so no driving restrictions!

I also went and saw Redfern's hoverbarge - after working for two years on permitting this mythical beast I finally laid eyes on it. It is pretty much finished, just needed one engine cover put on and some of the skirting installed. Pretty sad really.

Lastly, Finn and I went to an aerospace museum about an hour out of town - somewhere in farm country. Wow, I was amazed - it was such a cool, huge place, and we had it all to ourselves. Finn went nuts with all the levers, buttons, dials and even mini-helicopters to play in. Also, I took Finn to his first movie - but it was a 3D IMAX, so I suppose he will disappointed forevermore with the theater in Whitehorse.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Escaping Winter - Bikes, beers & boobs in Beervana

Yes, another week with no sign of snow! Even had a few days of sun - seems the stories of never-ending rain here in Portland were unfounded.

Picked up some "cruiser bikes" (aka dork bikes with big-ass saddles) and have spent a couple of days checking out town. There are tons of cool bike features in town, making it pretty fun to roam around on bikes: you can roll your bikes on to the trains and there are bike hangers on the trains, cross-town bike routes on side streets are marked with bike symbols on the pavement, bike lanes everywhere, including some bike & bus exclusive roads, and the coolest thing is the bike signals at intersections - roll your bike over the bike-symbol painted at the stop line, and the light changes, sometimes with bike-only symbols! I'll have to post a picture of that.

On one of our first rides we rode up a volcano located within one of the city parks (how many cities have volcanoes? how cool is that!)

Then the next day, I ended up running up that f#$#$G volcano 2 or 3 more times on the hash house harriers run. There are 3-4 hashes a week here, so I'm sure that I will get in great shape (running or drinking, you decide). 30 odd folks on the hash, clear night, two beer checks and a keg at a partially finished house at the end. Return home by bike and train, so beverage enjoyment was not limited...

My 100-mile drinking diet is going very well. There are reportedly 30 breweries in Portland, and one of them is less than 5-min walk from here. (steam in photo is emanating from brewery just below our house - note bike lane and yet crazy double-decker interstate bridge in background)

Also, beer is very cheap, and both local beer and local wine are sold in very civilized fashion at the Safeway.

Did a cool "trail" hike one day called the
"4T" trail - for Train, Trail, Tram and Trolley - it is a loop where you do all four, including the highest point in the city. The train section included one of the deepest transit stations in North America - some 200+ feet deep! I was excited because it was the first time I've ever seen my professional organization's logo in public - there was a plaque in the station from the Association of Engineering Geologists - hee ha!

Finn's Grandma also arrived this week from Ontario. So, they've been busy doing serious tasks like "paper-bag-pants" and "junk-food-eating", Georgi and I have been able to go out for some hot dates....Avatar 3D one night, and a burlesque show the other night!

Oh, ya, and did I mention, not only no snow, but the cherry tree across the street is starting to flower.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Escaping Winter - 1

Well, we arrived today in Portland, OR - moved in to our 1905 cottage across the river from downtown after 5 days of "overland" (non-aircraft) travel to get here. Sunny when we got here (still clear and warm) - after leaving a restaurant from dinner this evening heard people remarking "wow, it's NOT raining".

As I have come to loath winter, especially trudging through snow, we decided to skip a bit of Yukon winter - so we are hiding out in Portland, Oregon for 6 week. Why Portland? I don't know, but what I do know is there is no snow here! Also, I wanted to practice "post-peak-oil-living," so we are doing all of our travel without flying. Took that Alaska ferry from Skagway to Bellingham - three days, four nights on the ferry. Was very nice, clear, calm, sunny in Sitka and Ketchikan.

Apparently, Ketichan only gets 2 clear days of the year, and we got one! I was a bit disappointed with the seas though - I was hoping for big storms, big waves, etc. Just a little windy and rolly one night, but nothing to write home about.

Finn was great, and the time past pretty quickly. 'Course Finn spent many hours starring at the arcade games, which was very dull for Mom and, to a lesser extent, Dad.

Got off ferry today at 8am - made a run for the Amtrak train at 8:30 and made it due to the heroic ticket efforts of Bellingham station agent Mary (who was muttering under her breath the whole type "God damn Alaska ferry, God damn ferry, scheisse ferry, etc...). Although we ended up with tickets only as far as Seattle, we managed to arrive in Portland anyway.

We have yet to meet a Portlander other than waitress at Memphis-Blues type BBQ place we had dinner at tonight. First human contact in Portland was Croatian cab driver that spoke no English and got lost trying to find our place (less than 2km from train station). Then, it seems we are in the Ethiopian quarter of the city, so picked up milk at the Ethiopian grocery store.....

In closing, our house is nice, there is no snow here, kid is asleep, trains horns wailing in the distance, and having a beer in what is unofficially known as Beervana.

UPDATE: Georgi has posted some of the pics to-date - here is the link