Portland offers respite

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My Portland vacation really starts with the people I meet, then the places I go and then, of course, the food. 

I sat next to a lady on the plane named Sherry Boram, a fabric artist. Delightful, talented and quite interested in the artistry of the Paris Center of Fine Arts, for sure. She was the youngest 79-year-old that I ever met. Next my longtime friend, JoAnn, met me at the Portland airport and the whirlwind began.

Portland, Oregon, gave me an entirely new way to think about getting fed. 

I enjoyed wonderful meals and also enjoyed an absolute feast for the eyes and spirit. From Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge  — where scenes from several movies have been filmed — I looked down the Cascade Mountain Range at Mt. Jefferson and several other mountains and remembered what another airport traveler shared about Portland. “Just breathe,” she advised. 

We visited Vista House on Crown Point for sweeping vistas of the mighty Columbia River and the river gorge. We drove up the gorge to see Latourell, Bridal Veil and finally Multnomah Falls. Looking at them is both mesmerizing and a vivid reminder of the power of water. It was also a powerful reminder of fire as the charred trees from last year’s Eagle Creek Fire showed how close the fire came to the historic Multnomah Lodge. 

We used Portland’s Max — the commuter train — to tour Powell’s books and hit the food carts in Pioneer Square appropriately nicknamed Portland’s Living Room. Powell’s City of Books takes up an entire city block and is the largest bookstore  — by shelf space — in the world. 

The food carts offered cuisine from across the planet. I enjoyed a bowl with amazing herbs, sauce, vegetables and brown rice. We also visited Blue Star Doughnut where they’ve got everything from blueberry bourbon basil to the Mexican inspired horxata glaze. 

Tourists in the know will say, “Why didn’t you go to Voodoo Doughnut?” My friend advised me that’s for tourists. 

Portland has more coffee shops per capita than Seattle giving us numerous options. I enjoyed a mocha and a straight up coffee at Dutch Brothers  — called Dutch Bros by the locals. 

We had dinner in the Alberta Arts District. The fish tacos at Stella Tacos — an Austin, Texas, inspired eatery — were delicious. They featured an industrial designed interior just like Paris’ own Lot 50 Brewery. No visit to Alberta is complete without standing in line for some Salt and Straw ice cream with inventive flavors like Honey Lavender, Pear and Blue Cheese and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Pepper. 

The next day required some rest and then it was off to Rooster Rock State Park for a Star Party. One of the great gifts of this area is the dark skies providing incredible night time views of the heavens.  We were treated to views of Mars, Venus, Jupiter and even the rings of Saturn. It was incredible.

The next day we headed up Interstate 5 to Washington to see Mt. St. Helens. The view of the crater from the Johnson Ridge Observatory is truly spectacular. The landslide and eruption on May 18, 1980, was an unbelievable event for this part of the Pacific Northwest. The landslide preceding the eruption was the largest ever recorded. Mudslides went 14 miles and covered Spokane, Wash. with ash — and it’s a five-hour drive away.

We also found great Thai food and a 50s diner in downtown Gresham on the far east side of the Portland Metro. There was also wonderful Italian food at Pompello’s in Troutdale at the entryway to the Gorge. Gotta love Dungeness crab with pasta and asparagus.

It’s always nice to come home, but coming home was an adventure on its own.  At my stopover in Oakland, Calif., they needed three volunteers to step off the completely booked plane to allow some flight attendants to get to their flights, so I volunteered. That gained me vouchers for a future trip adding a two-hour wait in Oakland, a stop in Austin, a stop in Atlanta and finally back to Indianapolis for the two-hour drive home, 22 hours later. 

I did meet a rather nice couple of men who were going to Austin for an electrical cooperative conference and asked them if they knew our EnerStar Cooperative.  OK. It was a longshot, but you never know.

If you’ve never been to this part of our country, I’d recommend you see this vast, beautiful countryside. Meeting people and seeing places is a feast for the soul.