Portland Vacation (2016.08)

Portland skyline panorama, as seen from Pittock Mansion
Click here to see it larger (2048 x 296)
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Colorful flower garden in front of our hotel
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

My vacation entries always require a few days to prepare. This one took longer, because: real life. Yet it should be briefer than most, due to a different format. Rather than go full chronological order, as is my custom, I’m treating this vacation in a topical fashion to save time.

Photos aren’t a priority of this entry. If you’re terribly interested in my photos, you’re already following me on Flickr. If you’re only mildly interested in my images, scroll to the end of this entry and follow the link.

• The Superlatives

This vacation was the longest — distance from home — of my marriage. Google Maps says it’s 2,053 miles from Austin to Portland by automobile; it’s about 1,710 miles if you could fly in a straight line. This is farther than our trips to New England (2008, 2014), Montreal (2009), or out West (2009).

And, at just over seven days, it was the longest we’ve been away from home since marrying.

It’s the farthest west that M has ever been, and the same is true for our children. Previous most-western destinations: Las Vegas for M, Odessa (TX) for RLF, and Marble Falls (TX) for BWF. (I’ve been ALL the way west, flying across the International Date Line a few times, and have been to Alaska, Hawaii, and Japan.)

MRB had never seen or touched the Pacific Ocean until this trip; now they all have. (I was born within earshot of the Pacific’s waves in Honolulu.)

It was also our most expensive vacation of all time, and the first time that our hotel cost more than our airline tickets. The hotel suite was 38.5% of our total expenditure, and the flights came to 34.6% (plus another 3.1% for the checked luggage fees). The next largest chunk was 11.4% for the rental car. That means only 12.4% of the total expenditure went to meals, snacks, drinks, state parks, tourist attractions, entry fees, parking, etc.

But I don’t think there’s any question that it was also the most fun of any vacation we’ve had.

Indian Beach, as seen from the trail above it (just north of Cannon Beach, Oregon)
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Mount Hood, as seen from our Embraer 175 jet, on the way to Portland
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Getting There (And Back)

In order to get a direct flight, we skipped the Killeen airport and drove to Austin, using Alaska Airlines. Theirs was a sharp, impressive operation. There were zero issues flying out, and zero flying back. Both flights took off on time and both landed on time. Neither waited on the tarmac either before or after flying. Luggage was waiting for us by the time we got to the baggage claim area.

The Embraer 175 (same aircraft for both flights) had plenty of room for my frame, which is unusual for a small plane.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, we left our house at 13:05 CDT and arrived at the hotel at 22:00 CDT (20:00 PDT) — about nine hours of total travel time. (That morning, M had gone to the school to register RLF, and was the first one in the door.)

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, we left the hotel before 07:00 PDT and arrived at our house before 15:00 PDT (17:00 CDT) — about eight hours of travel time.

During the flight home, the pilot had to take us higher than usual, due to a few thunderstorms. During this extra-high flight, I had an intense headache which I’m attributing to altitude sickness, for lack of a better culprit. It’s only happened to me twice before, and only when the plane has gone extra high to avoid a storm. Just as with the previous times, the headache dissipated as soon as we began to descend.

• Lodging

We spoiled ourselves with a very nice hotel suite (Embassy Suites), giving us the ability to put the children to sleep while still staying up to talk or watch TV in the other room. See video tour of our suite (1:45).

The rest of the hotel was luxurious — especially the beautiful lobby, complete with fountains. There was a full breakfast selection every morning — made-to-order omelettes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, waffles, toast, bagels, cereal, coffee, tea, juice, water, soda, and more (I’m sure I’m forgetting something).

MRB next to the bubbling fountains in the gorgeous lobby of our hotel
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

The service was fantastic as well. They didn’t disturb our room when we put out the “do not disturb” sign, and they did come in when we removed the sign. When we needed another towel, an employee knocked on our door within two minutes, handing over three new towels. When BWF cut his finger on a blackberry bush at a nearby hiking trail, the desk clerk promptly produced a Band-Aid (on two separate occasions).

At Ecola State Park, near Cannon Beach, Oregon. Note our clothes, including jackets and long pants. In August!
(Copyright © 2016 by Marline Fry.)

• The Weather

We knew going in that the weather would be quite different than we’re used to. Still, it had to be experienced for me to believe it. I wore long pants the entire trip, and put on a blazer in the mornings and evenings — and still felt chilly a few times — upper 50s and lower 60s. Afternoons (80s) were perfect with short sleeves, and just a bit warm the times I did a lot of walking.

Several locals assured us “we see 100s a few times every summer”, but weather data I could find online doesn’t support this. The all-time daily records for August (NOAA) are in the upper 90s and low 100s, and the daily averages range from 57°F to 82°F (which matched our experience).

I never once put on sunscreen, and despite being outside 90% of the daylight hours, I didn’t get a bit of sunburn or suntan. I did see others applying sunscreen, but couldn’t figure out why; I’m not convinced it’s possible to sunburn there.

The officiant, Tara, and Steph
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Raison d’Vacation

We didn’t choose Portland randomly; there was a point to our destination: my wife’s college roommate Tara had invited us to her wedding. (I’d met Tara once before, at a 2008 reunion at Connecticut College.) This was the reason for the trip itself, two days of it anyway. Given this (possibly) one-and-only chance to visit the Pacific Northwest, we decided to stay a few extra days.

The wedding wasn’t overly large, but the setting (Leach Botanical Garden) was beautiful and the ceremony was succinct. It was BWF’s first wedding, and RLF’s second.

Click here to view the official wedding photographs by professional photographer Crystal Genes.

Steph, Tara, M, BWF, and RLF, after the wedding
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Destinations

We kept our days fairly full, but even then I came home feeling like there were a hundred other things we could have done and seen. In addition to eating at different restaurants every day for lunch and supper (we breakfasted at the hotel), some of the touristy things we did/saw/visited include the Portland Children’s Museum, the Oregon Zoo, Ecola State Park and Cannon Beach, Fort Vancouver (across the state line in Washington), Pearson Air Museum, several city parks and hiking trails, Pittock Mansion, Leach Botanical Garden, and Powell’s City Of Books. We also watched the Oregon International Airshow for about an hour, but didn’t pay the ridiculous entry fee — we watched from the parking lot of Costco.

RnB at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro, Oregon. The location and pose of the photo were both RLF’s idea
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

Instead of filling this entry with mini-reviews of every place we visited, I will link to my Yelp reviews, for those of you curious about any of them:

Alaska Airlines (5 stars)
PDX Airport (3 stars)
Hertz Rent-A-Car (5 stars)
Embassy Suites — Hillsboro (5 stars)
Portland Children’s Museum (5 stars)
Evergreen Park (4 stars)
Rock Creek Park (3 stars)
Rock Creek Trail (4 stars)
Asian Kitchen Grill (4 stars)
Ecola State Park (5 stars)
Driftwood Restaurant & Lounge (4 stars)
Cannon Beach (4 stars)
A&J’s Ice Cream (4 stars)
Coldstone Creamery (3 stars)
Oregon Zoo (2 stars)
Enso Winery (4 stars)
Pittock Mansion (5 stars)
Sportsman’s Warehouse (4 stars)
Fort Vancouver (4 stars)
Pearson Air Museum (5 stars)
Burgerville (5 stars)
Leach Botanical Gardens (4 stars)
Washington Park (4 stars)
Red Robin (4 stars)
Rood Bridge Park (5 stars)
Orchard Park (5 stars)
Powell’s City Of Books (5 stars)
Jamison Square (3 stars)
Lizard Lounge (3 stars)
Rock & Rose (3 stars)
Insomnia Coffee (5 stars)

By far, the best value for our money was Ecola State Park. It cost a mere $5 to drive into the park, and that pass was good for all day. There were multiple hiking trails, gorgeous views of the Pacific Coast, and a paved parking lot. The biggest let-down for all of us was the Oregon Zoo, which was our most expensive destination and the most disappointing zoo I’ve ever visited (it gets decent reviews online, so it’s possible we came at a bad time).

The four of us at Ecola Point, overlooking the Pacific. Hidden in the fog behind me is Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock.
(Image made by a woman, whose family I photographed with her phone.)

• The Children

RnB enjoyed almost all of this trip. Both were good on the flights, made friends with fellow passengers and flight attendants, and (mostly) obeyed in the airports (a couple of times, we had to chase down BWF). BWF was too short to see out his window, so he kept unbuckling his seatbelt to see out. Once, when the flight attendant overheard me telling RLF to wait to use her tablet, the flight attendant backed me, but then said quietly to me: “I didn’t want to contradict your authority, but she actually is allowed to use it now, if it’s in airplane mode.” Oh. I told her I hadn’t realized that, thanked her, and told RLF she could use it.

BWF with two very large trees, on the trail between Ecola Point and Indian Beach
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

With an extra TV in our hotel room, we allowed the children to fall asleep watching TV each night, after our normal routine of prayers and reading a book to them. (At home, one of us stays in the room with them until BWF falls asleep — otherwise, he won’t stay in his bed.) It took a load off of us. The hotel had several kid/family channels that we don’t, so we were able to find child-friendly movies for them. Both kids also enjoyed the circular route through the suite; they could chase each other around and around.

Hiking: RnB hiked with us on all the trails we walked, including the toughest we tried: the hike from Ecola Point to Indian Beach, which took nearly an hour each way, with lots of steep parts, drop-offs, roots to step over, etc. Several other hikers commented with surprise at how naturally BWF took to the trails. He seemed to be — for the first time in his life — completely in his element.

RLF pretends to wash her hands in this old pitcher at Fort Vancouver, after learning that people didn’t always have running water.
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Both children, along with M and I, added two states to our Visited lists. I’ve now been to 29, M to 27, and both children have been to eight states.

• A Few More Notes

• Gas is really expensive there, compared to here. The cheapest we saw was $2.559 per gallon, while the most expensive back home in Killeen was $1.899.

• You can’t pump your own gas in Oregon, because the state government believes you’re just not qualified — unless you’re wearing a reflective vest and are currently employed by a gas station, two things that have been empirically proven to indicate high IQs. (In case it’s not clear, the previous 11 words are not true at all; I’m being sarcastic.)

A cute building in east Portland
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Almost everywhere we went — especially Portland proper and Cannon Beach — it was either difficult to find parking, or you have to pay to park (or both). They do not believe in building parking lots there. All the parking meters are computerized and take credit cards; about half of them do not work. Even the single-family homes are often garageless, and a lot of them don’t even have driveways — you have to struggle to find curbside parking.

• Portland felt a lot like parts of Austin, Texas. They even have the same informal slogan: “Keep Austin/Portland weird”. There were about the same amount of beards, bikes, and marijuana that we’ve seen in Austin. New high-rise (and high-price) condominiums are going up in both cities. Both cities are split by rivers. Both have relatively high LGBTQ populations (around 6%) and both have relatively low religious populations (below 50%), with Catholics the leading group in both places. One huge difference, of course, is the demographics; there is a much higher percentage of Hispanic residents in Austin, and a higher percentage of whites in Portland.

• Speaking of demographics, I did not see many African-Americans in Portland, and even fewer in touristy places like Cannon Beach. Coming from Killeen, which is only 45.1% white, this was a bit strange to me. After coming home, I read this online: “At 6.3%, Portland’s African American population is three times the state average. Over two thirds of Oregon’s African-American residents live in Portland.” Apparently, race-relations are still a black eye in Portland’s progressive portfolio (source). We personally did not experience any issues, but MRB were often the only black people in sight.

• If I could make one thing in Killeen like Portland, it would be the August weather. Highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s were like a dream. I don’t wear shorts every day because I necessarily like wearing shorts; it’s because it’s so hot here all the time. If I could make one thing in Portland like Killeen, it would be the abundance of parking spots.

The iconic Haystack Rock, as seen from Cannon Beach, Oregon
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

I couldn’t help but wonder how my life would change if I lived there. (This is something I think about any time I visit, or even drive through, a new place.) If I actually lived in the city, I’d drive a lot less, bike/walk more, and take public transportation. Portland is good for all those things. Someone in my household would need to get a huge raise, because housing prices in Portland are skyrocketing (Portland is #9 for home prices among U.S. cities, and Oregon is ranked eighth among the states). And I’d spend as much time as possible in Powell’s City Of Books.

RnB in the restroom pavilion at Rose Garden Children’s Park, part of Washington Park
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Vacation Photos

Between my phone and my DSLR, I recorded 867 media files (440 with the 60D; 427 with my phone). First pass deletion got it down to 610, and a second pass reduced the total to 448. I ended up with 394 images (and three videos). You can see all of the images here.

Believe me, I really wanted that total to be lower, both for ease of editing and ease of sharing, but every image that I kept had a reason for it.

I did make one mistake in packing my kit; I brought my 28mm lens for the 60D, which basically duplicates the field of view I can get with my phone. So I ended up not using that lens at all. I also brought a speedlight “just in case”, but only used it once, and didn’t really need it then.

Your helpful host, on the grounds of Pittock Mansion, overlooking Portland proper
(Copyright © 2016 by Marline Fry. Some rights reserved.)

  1. Marline says:

    I loved this. Thanks for the great wrap up on our trip. Best family vacation ever!

  2. Sherry says:

    Great summary; enjoyed it very much. Looking forward to seeing all the pictures.

  3. Zane says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed the trip.

  4. Jaelynn Fry says:

    This makes me want to visit Portland next year! Sounds like a great trip!

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      It really was fun, Jaelynn! And next year, V will be walking/running everywhere. :-)

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