Source: National Geographic, March 1955
While I didn't wave at the Cascades like Mr. Jefferson...
...I was able to greet a giant inflatible bear and its catch of the morning as I left Coos Bay to begin my lone full day in Oregon. It was Memorial Day, so I kept my eyes peeled for any potential traffic tie-ups due to parades and related festivies. Luckily most towns kept their marching routes off US 101.
While in Florence, I passed by a ceremony that saluted the efforts of dogs in foreign wars. The crowd made it difficult to tell if any of the honoured pooches were decorated with medals for their service in Iraq.
North of Florence were several spots to observe sea lions. There was one tourist trap that offered a close-up view for a steep admission fee. I ended up at a park called Strawberry Hill, which made up for its lack of fruit with a scenic, craggy landscape and an occasional glimpse of sea lions in the distance. Bonus feature: declarations of love carved into the sandy cliffs.
The greatest culinary disaster of the roadtrip was an Idaho Spud, a regional candy bar consisting a marshmallow-esque "potato" covered in chocolate and coconut. The putty-like filling was grey and tasteless, making me wish that real mashed potatoes had been added in. Three-quarters of the bar found a resting place in the nearest garbage can.
The rest of the day saw more stops at scenic outlooks, outlet mall browsing, and a long wait in traffic as I headed inland to Portland. Night had fallen by the time I arrived at the swankiest accomodations of the trip, a Crowne Plaza on the outskirts of downtown. I was tired enough not to need the special relaxtion CD left on the pillows, a chain staple that Mom and Amy loved making fun of back in Toronto.
The next morning began with a lengthy browse at Powell's Books. Their flagship store lives up to its billing as a "city of books," as I could have spent a few days roaming its endless rows of shelving. Keeping my purchase down to whatever I had room for in my luggage was tricky—too bad I didn't think to call home and ask for the mailing address of relatives in Detroit that I could have shipped books to at no extra cost. I found a fair bit of material related to Toronto, including bargain books on long gone local restaurants.
Even Canadian cuisine had its own section in the cookbook aisles, despite the intrusion of other culinary areas...
When you're hungry and in an unfamiliar place, how can you resist the lure of signs like this?
The hyperbole wasn't overblown. The pastrami, turkey and corned beef double decker combo at Kenny and Zuke's satisified my tummy for most of the day. The lean cuts of meat retained their flavour without being dried out (purists may scoff at my habit of ordering lean at delis, but I've never been a connaisseur of chewing on globs of fat).
Early afternoon was spent in the Hawthorne neighbourhood, where I checked out two more outposts of Powell's. At the Home and Garden store, I found the perfect gift to bring back for Sarah. Amid the salt and pepper shakers were a set featuring Pepe LePew and Penelope (the cat who never met a can of strategically-placed white paint she didn't like), which were marked "salt" and "Pepe." My instincts were on the ball, based on the reaction I received back in Toronto. Before the time on the parking meter ran out, I wandered into other shops in the neighbourhood and snapped pictures of restored movie theatres.
Time had allowed a bare glimpse of Portland. Its mixture of neighbourhoods reminded me of home and left me craving another day for further exploration. While the city might not have world class draws, its comfortable atmosphere and streets condusive for strolling/driving made me feel at ease and curious as to what small discoveries lurked around each corner...
...ok, I'd go back for Powell's and the head-sized sandwiches.
Heeding these thoughtful warnings, I backed out and headed over to I-5 to join the early phase of rush hour traffic. Ahead of me was a three-hour drive to the final destination of the trip: Seattle.
Full set of pictures. All photos taken May 25-26, 2009 - JB