Oregon travelogue vol. 1

I nearly mucked my trip up entirely, but the fine people of Delta Airlines got me to Portland safe and sound and mostly sober (wine is now $7 on flights and therefore out of my price range) early early early Saturday morning. Jason, legendary Sidelines alum and current evil muckraking boss of Keizertimes, was such a trooper, and picked me up at the airport shortly after midnight. He may or may not have brought a Welcome-to-Oregon! Gatorade bottle full of syrah for the hourlong trip back to his house, during which he gave me a pretty comprehensive overview of local politics and civics and culture and the $300 million Portland is about to spend on bike lanes thanks to the efforts of those damned feisty cyclists in the Pacific Northwest.

I love traveling to a new place and getting the rundown on the local controversies and scandals and even the mundane political shit that plagues every municipality. Sure, every city is kind of the same but every city has its own weird shit, and when you venture into a truly liberal part of the country, that weird shit just seems so far-fetched. I love that Portland has an openly gay mayor who shares a name with a beer and I love even more that he’s not even three years in to his term and he’s already had a pretty scandalicious sex scandal.

Saturday morning I managed to get up bright and early at 9:30 local time. Jason was out at the local RiverFair festival, so Alana and I got breakfast in Salem and swung by the farmer’s market for some fresh-cut flowers and blackberries (which turned out to be so unbelievably sweet and awesome when dropped into a glass of bubbly). Salem and Keizer are cute as can be (Jason and Alana will argue this, I’m sure). They’ve both got sort of a bustling, idyllic smallish TV-town feel to them — Salem especially because it’s older — but Salem’s obviously not small, being the state capitol and all. There is something about Oregon’s statewide urban planning regulations that makes even their suburban towns feel very accessible and pedestrian-friendly and homey. I dig that a lot.

Alana and I met Jason at RiverFair Saturday afternoon and perused the booths. I was tempted by glow-in-the-dark artisan jewelry. And dogs. God, I’ve got the dog lust and it needs to quit.

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Then it was on to the Willamette Valley wineries, starting with Firesteed, which I see locally all the time. We tasted a flight of reds and whites and then all chipped in for a bottle of riesling and went on our merry way. We also hit up Left Coast, where I bought a bottle of pinot noir rosé, and Johan, where I bought nothing but was very impressed with both their estate and reserve chardonnays. I usually hate chardonnay but they take it easy on the “oak” so it’s not nearly as much of a mouth punch as some others. Mental note: See if this is carried locally. We ended the day’s tasting round at Eola, where I bought a couple of bottles without regard to how I was going to get all that booze home safely (happy ending: I left a bottle for my hosts and got the other two home, wrapped in clothes in my suitcase, intact).

The valley itself is beautiful to look at and it seemed like every time we topped a hill, an even more beautiful vista laid itself out before us. I love Memphis but I am tired of flat West Tennessee landscapes. I need drama in my horizons.

This post is getting long and I’ve got to head to work so I better wrap it up and continue my travelogue in a new post later.

First, I’ll say this:

As I’m getting older, I’m really starting to appreciate the fact that so many of my friends have situated themselves all over the country. It’s a marked luxury to have all these interesting places to go and my friends to greet me there and show me a good time. I’m not sure how I lucked out in that regard, but I am incredibly grateful for the experiences it has brought me.

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