The time has finally come to say goodbye to the Sou'wester.
I have become very fond of the owner, and she has allowed me to indenture myself and do some work in exchange for a discount on our stay. In fact, she was so kind as to give us our stay for free! I hardly feel like my services merit that, but I am so grateful for her kindness. It is difficult to leave a place where I know we have a friend and are so close to the ocean, but we must move on because a deadline is looming. More on that in a few days.
It is grey and drizzling when we pull out of the Sou'wester and drive toward Astoria. We cross a dizzyingly high bridge over the Columbia River, and find ourselves lost on a hill in Astoria. There is a roadblock in front of us, an impossibly steep hill rising to our right, and a dangerously sloping descent to our left. Hubs puts our trailer brakes to use and we opt for the sharp drop to our left.
Safely back down and on the right road again, we eventually pick up I-5 heading toward Portland. Driving on a congested interstate toward a big city is not something we would normally do, but I have been waiting for these next few days for months. A friend of mine lives in Portland and we have not seen anybody we know for nearly five months.
That is part of the hazard of full-timing. We are constantly making new friends and acquaintances, but never see anybody that we have an established friendship with. It can be tiring to be a stranger in a strange land, but Portland is gleaming in the distance with the promise of a sweet friend and new foods.
First, we have to endure over an hour of stopped traffic on I-5 before making it to our destination for the evening: Home Depot. It is not very scenic, but it is quiet and we have permission to park there for a night.
The next morning, we lift our jacks and mosey down the road to Oregon City, a suburb of Portland. My friend Elizabeth has arranged for us to stay in the driveway of a friend of hers, and our hearts skip for joy as we pull into this:
We are in a safe, peaceful neighborhood and it is a relief to have a place to crash for a few days. Elizabeth's friend Kristi comes out to greet us, and within a few minutes of being at her house, we are sitting at the kitchen table eating homemade pumpkins scones. We have never met her before, but she throws her doors open to us and makes us feel like we have known her forever.
Elizabeth arrives a short while later, and after a big hug, hands me a bag.
A gift? For ME??
In the bag are two tickets to tour an old mansion, and a pair of the most awesome socks ever.
She is insistent on spoiling us silly, and announces that we are going on an adventure this evening. I cannot begin to guess what she has in store for us, but she seems very excited.
I go with Elizabeth to her house while Hubs stays behind to get some work done. While sitting in her living room, I pick up a photo book of one of the many overseas medical trips Elizabeth has taken. She is a super-doctor and not afraid of third-world countries.
I should have known. The book starts out with a few pages of the exotic and colorful flowers of Papua New Guinea. I am lulled into the magic of flora, until I turn the next page and see a severed finger. Yes, Elizabeth amputated a finger (after having watched it being done once), and there it is, immortalized in her travel book. And here is a man with a giant tumor… you get the idea. While her travels have been far more worthy than ours, I have to skip most of the pages for fear of getting sick on her nice rug. She is such a cheerful person, and to hear her talk happily of gangrenous appendages and bulging tumors, I am thankful that the world is not populated with people just like me. Otherwise, the Rug Doctor would rule us all.
We converge that evening in downtown Portland where we find the most fun, most terrifying way to see a city:
After we take a crash course on how to not die while riding one, our tour guide whizzes away down the sidewalk.
Our friends Elizabeth, Kristi, and Larry have all done this before, and Hubs is Mr. Capable, so I am always the last in line and trying to keep up while not falling off my mechanical beast. Elizabeth fills in the plentiful gaps that our segway guide has left out on the interesting points of Portland.
This is a Benson bubbler:
There are 52 bubblers in the city of Portland, one in Mayhill, Washington, and one in Portland's sister city, Sapporo, Japan.
She is truly enormous, and I am not sure of what she wants. Maybe some spare change. She has a lot of competition from Portland's abundant panhandling population.
We roll past my favorite stop on the trip: the smallest city park in the world, known as Mill Ends Park.
It also happens to be the only leprechaun colony outside of Ireland, and every St. Patty's Day a parade of bagpipers marches around the park.
Nobody said Portland was normal.
As we head for one of the city's many bridges, I see Kristi rolling along on her segway, when she suddenly drops about six inches! It is getting dark and the sidewalk ended abruptly. She stays on her segway, and manages the whole thing so well, it looks intentional! If you have ever ridden a segway, falling off a curb is just about the most frighting prospect you can imagine.
Over the bridge we go and take a few minutes to look at the city lights from across the water.
If you ever get a chance to do a segway tour, I would highly recommend it. It is a great way to see a city in an evening, and they are so much fun to ride.
Back at the house, we are treated to a fantastic salmon dinner by Elizabeth, Kristi, and Larry.
We are exhausted and safe and happy as we crawl into bed for the night.