Boise, Astoria, Portland, and Seaside – Loving Oregon

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The one where I walk all over Portland to photograph its most beautiful buildings, drive from American Falls in Idaho to Portland, visit the home of the Goonies, eat saltwater taffy in Seaside, and see the world’s scariest clown at the Portland Saturday Markets.

Boise Pitstop

We learned one thing from our ten hour trip from Portland to American Falls for the service: ten hours is a long time to be sitting in a car. I should have known this. Having made the twelve hour drive from Tibooburra across to Newcastle and the longer one from Townsville down to Armidale in the past – you’d think I’d have learned this nugget of wisdom by now.

I like a good road trip as much as the next guy, perhaps more, but there’s only so many times you can hear the same song and eat truck-stop food before it all gets a little old. That and our car smelled like farts and sagebrush. And that was probably 90% my fault. I wasn’t yet aware that I was lactose intolerant.

To break up the drive, we decided to spend the evening with some of Fallon’s cousins in Boise. The visit itself was uneventful aside from good conversation with good people, but we got up at the crack of dawn to head out to Snake River Canyon and do a little photography before hitting the road. It was cold and still and foggy and just absolutely gorgeous.

Snake River Canyon just after dawn

I’ll be forever in envy of the United States’ rivers and lakes. Australia is so dry and flat that our idea of a big river is barely a trickle in comparison to most American rivers – and Snake River isn’t even a particularly big one. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it – but if you’re ever in the Boise area and have a few hours to kill, it’s got some good photo opportunities and it’s a nice drive.

Walking Tour

DID YOU KNOW: Portland is home to the second largest hammered copper statue in the world. The first? The State of Liberty.

One thing that Fallon had been particularly excited about planning for our Portland visit was a walking tour of the city she loved so much. And while we’d covered a decent amount of it during our brewery tour, there was still a great many places she wanted me to see while I was visiting. It’s been over a year since we made the trip, so you’ll forgive me if I can’t quite recall all that we saw – but I was smart enough to snap off copious amounts of photos, so I’ll let them do my talking for me.

Fallon (of Fallon's Healthy Life) looking pretty to start the tour
We spent a good hour snapping photos of this gorgeous church
I couldn't get enough of this cafe. It's still open!
The Ira Keller Fountain
Lunch at Steamers. Delicious!
Hundreds of geese on the shores of the Colombia River
The 24 Hour International Church of Elvis. I have no idea what this is.

It was a really gorgeous day out and we had a great time just wandering around and snapping photos. The above is just a handful of the places we went. Lunch at Steamers was fantastic and I’d thoroughly recommend it if you’re downtown. Now that I think about it – there were only really one or two restaurants in Portland that I wouldn’t recommend. It’s such a fantastic city if you’re looking to eat good food.

Dinner after the long walk was at Salvador Molly’s of Man vs. Food fame. And no, none of us tried the jalapeño poppers with habanero dipping sauce. None of us was in a hurry to vomit and then have violently burning diarrhea. But another good feed. I think I put on about 7kgs in my six weeks in the United States. Not pretty.

The next day was more sight-seeing. Portland Zoo, lunch at McMeniman’s with an old friend of Fallon’s, and then off to one of the famous Beer Theaters to watch The Hangover for about the tenth time in my life. Hilarious movie and a lot of fun watching it in a theater while drinking slightly over-priced beers.


DID YOU KNOW: The John Jacob Astor of Titanic fame is descended from the man who Astoria is named for.

Friday was the day I’d been most excited about. I think we’ve all got that movie that we grow up with and love to bits no matter how old we get. For some it’s The Princess Bride or Willow, but for me it’s The Goonies. I could watch that movie every day and never get sick of it. So, when I realized that Astoria was only ninety minutes drive from Portland, I insisted that we make the day trip out there.

The drive through the national park was breathtaking, and the whole day was a study in beautiful places. Astoria is this quaint little town with a lot of heritage buildings and cute cafes. Even without my eagerness to see the place for its Goonie link, I think we’d still have enjoyed just visiting the place. We made the obligatory stops at the Goonie house and the County Jail (now a laundromat) and then climbed Astoria Column to get a breath-taking view of where the Colombia enters the ocean.

Totally having a nerdgasm right about now
Admit it - You can totally hear the Fratellis music right now
Astoria Column: Gorgeous on the outside and absolute torture on the inside

The whole time we were there this mysterious honking bark had been confusing us, so we also trekked down to the waterfront to investigate and found a veritable horde of sea lions! They were everywhere on the docks. Lounging around, fighting, swimming – and people just had to deal with it.

Sea Lions take over Astoria's waterfront

From Astoria it was down to another quaint seaside village – aptly named ‘Seaside’. We had some clam chowder and fries, bought salt-water taffy, left gigantic ‘I love you’ messages in the sand, and I braved the icy cold autumn weather to wade into the Pacific ocean so I could say I had been in the water on both sides.

It was a little dizzying to stand there ankle deep in chilly water and realize that I had stood in that same ocean on an entirely different continent. I love those moments of absolute clarity when you stop and realize just how lucky you are – not just to be traveling, but to be alive.

It puts all of the little things into perspective. Relationships will come and go, friends will let you down, jobs will drown your spirit – but you’ll always be alive. And all it takes to get that feeling back is to step out your door and go somewhere you haven’t been before. It doesn’t have to be a long trip. You can just go to an unfamiliar suburb and start walking. You’ll find a cafe or a bar or a park and that, right there, is your adventure.

When this relationship with Fallon comes to an end and I inevitably find myself feeling like my heart will never heal, I’ll remind myself of moments such as that one in the sleepy town of Seaside. I’ll have moments like that again. The girl at my side might be different or I might just be alone, but I’ll experience that again. My life won’t be over – just a small (but significant) chapter of it. And it’s exciting to know I’ll get to write one of my own.

But I digress. This was meant to be a flashback to Portland – and 2009 Chris had no idea that 2010 Chris would be plotting a breakup for 2011 Chris.

After Seaside it was back to Portland for one last day. We spent the morning at Portland’s all day markets shopping; eating more delicious food; and being stalked by the world’s biggest and scariest clown. It was hilarious. His antics alone were worth the trip – and there were plenty of interesting stalls to visit to add to that.

World's Coolest Clown

DID YOU KNOW: The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia. It has grown in frequency in the years since Stephen King’s It was adapted for television.

All told, I fell in love with Portland. It wasn’t just about the food and the beer, although that played a huge part in it. It was also just the artsy feel of the place. This is a city that once had a reputation to make Vegas look like Salt Lake City, but it’s transcended its darker roots of Shanghaiing and opium dens and become a truly underrated corner of the United States.

When I look back on a trip that featured Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and countless other beautiful spots – it’s still Portland that I remember with the fondest memories. Forget Seattle – Portland is where it’s at.

One for the road: Multnomah Falls


As always, here are a selection of links to the places I would recommend that were mentioned in this entry.

Restaurants, breweries, and beer theaters. Oh my!

Astoria, Oregon
Home of Astoria Column, The Goonies Tour, and a thousand beautiful buildings

Delicious salt-water taffy, lots to see, and the beach to boot.

Not as dirty as it sounds. Really good Asian food.

Portland Saturday Market
Home of the world’s creepiest clown and lots of hand-made jewelry and art

Salvador Mollys
Good food. Good times.

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