Trip Start Apr 11, 2009
3Trip End May 09, 2009
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Benji arrived at 8:30, right on time, and me, him, and Ben set off to get the car and go for some breakfast, The hire-car system was superb; All you do is create an account online, give your bank details etc and they send you out a little credit card thing. So from there on, when you want to hire a car you don't need to go to an office or anything, you just log on to the website, tell them when you want the car (i.e. the next day), and they drive it out and leave it at a pre-arranged parking space nearby. And you just turn up, swipe your card against the car windscreen, which unlocks the doors. Then, you just take it back and leave it in the same spot when you're finished. The swipe card even starts the engine!!! Genius, these Americans...Although the idea did have a whiff of the Japanese about it...thrifty little blighters. Anyway, we had breakfast in another little diner, and due to the hangover we order "the works", which to my surprise not only included evey kind of food you can think of, but also a complimentary "bloody mary" to - as the waitress put it - "take the edge off".
So, Columbia Gorge...Portland was near to the mouth of The Columbia River, so Columbia Gorge starts when the river moves inland and hits the mountains. It's pretty beautiful and has hundreds of waterfalls and "nooks n crannies" to explore. So we drove out and looked at a few of these for a while. It was absolutely pouring down with rain at this point (as it often does in that part of the US), but that gave me a good chance to try out my waterproofs - or so i thought. I was quickly informed by my local friends - upon seeing my snazzy rain gear - that nobody there wore waterproofs and that they just "embraced" the rain. I politely told them i was in fact a foreigner, and was happy to be known as such, particularly if it meant i would remain dry. So, despite the embarrassment of being labelled a foreigner, i continued to wear my gear and continued to be dry...and continued to get laughed at...Small price to pay i thought to myself as my cloth-and-jeans-laden chums got drenched so badly they looked like they were wearing clothes made entirely of sheets of Bounty.
After a few hours in the Gorge we drove out to a local Diner by a lake to dry off, and i had my first ever Blueberry Pie...Jesus Christ
We drove back home when the scenery got "samey". I had the slight disadvantage of being Scottish, so i was used to nice scenery, but Portland did seem to be on a slightly grander scale, and, once again, i was always aware that beyond those mountains was thousands of miles of wilderness, so it seemed all the more impressive to me...And anyway, i was just happy to be out sampling my first taste of American wilderness. Onwards!
When we got back to the house, i was surprisingly perky and raring to go. Ben's friend Serafin was there and he was desperate to take us out and show me "the real Portland"...I was intrigued, so jumped at the chance. My host, Ben had to work the next day, so he gracefully bowed out. So, me, Benji, and Serafin drove out in Portland to sample the delights.
We went for some dinner in a place who's name i cant recall, but Serafin told me it was famous in that part of the world for its unique method of wrapping up the scraps for those diners who want to take home what is left of their meal
After dinner Serafin told me about Portland's other dirty little secret, a pass time called "Zoo Bombing". This, i was told, involved teenagers going up to the highest point in Portland (which was the Zoo) on tiny little kids bikes with no brakes. When at the top, they gathered together and proceeded to race down the windy roads in the pitch black at full speed all the way down to the main roads and highways in town. It sounded like fun, but alot of the people actually took it really seriously. I even got into trouble by some spotty teenager when i too out my camera to get a photo. Apparently people had actually been seriously injured and one person at least had died. Crazyness! But anyway, we drove up to the top of the Zoo and watched them all gather and then set off on their rediculous journey. We got back in the car and raced down after them, (avoiding actually hitting them on the way down), and when we got to the bottom we waited a few minutes, and next thing we know we hear the little "whirring" sound of a childs bike round the corner...only to see two fully-grown men on minature bikes gliding down at warp speed directly onto the highway, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic!. Portland truly is crazy. But i loved it.
To finish the evening off we drove to a local doughnut place called "Voodoo", where apparently you can get any type of doughnut you want 24 hours
On the way i decided i was going to head off from Portland the following day. Benji, to my eternal gratitude said he wasnt doing anything for the next week, so he offered to split the cost of hiring a car and he would drive me up the West Coast all the way to my next destination, Seattle. I happily accepted his offer and we both went our seperate ways that night, arranging to meet up again in the morning.
When i got back i said my goodbyes to the family and thanked them for everything. They seemed genuinely sad to see me go, and i was genuinely sad to be going - but there was a pretty big journey ahead of me, so i wasnt able to suppress my excitement at the prospect of being "on the road"...it was an unexpected pleasure to be going on a road trip as i had already mentally prepared myself for getting the bus and maybe even hitch-hiking...This seemed like an easier option! I went to sleep that night feeling pretty damn pleased with myself and praising the fact that my good luck seemed to be continuing.