Can you believe that this visit to Portland is a first for the Traveling Twosome? How did we ever get to our current ages without visiting this incredibly bike-friendly, quirky, funky, green, and all-around cool city? I have no idea, but we're so glad we were finally able to rectify the situation.
Portland consistently ranks at the very top of all "bike-friendly" surveys and is one of only four cities in the US to be awarded the "platinum" status by the League of American Bicyclists. So naturally we couldn't wait to put Portland's bike-ability to the test on our first full day in the city. And Barry had another objective as well; to find Voodoo Doughnuts and gorge himself silly! This incredibly creative doughnut shop has been featured on multiple "foodie" TV shows, and we couldn't wait to check it out for ourselves.
We started out from our hotel in northeast Portland in the morning and pointed our wheels south towards downtown. There were marked bike lanes on pretty much every street, and we were soon joined by hoards of commuting cyclists. This was the most cyclists we'd ever seen commuting to work other than on Ambergris Caye in Belize!
There are bike road signs all along the way as well, so it's easy to get around.
It got a little confusing as we approached downtown with its many bridges and roads going this way and that, but we were able to get directions from a passing jogger on how to cross the Willamette River. We could see our target area from the other side, and it looked fabulous!
Here's a zoomed-in view. Love the sign!
And here's a wider view showing a huge barge approaching the bridge we needed to cross. As we did in Seattle, we'd wait for this guy to go through first, but that was okay -- it gave us more time to look around while on the bridge!
The bridge we'd soon be crossing...
If you look near the lower right of this photo and squint, you can see Barry in yellow riding across....
We first rode up and down the riverfront on the multi-use path. It was amazing how many other cyclists, walkers, and especially runners we encountered. I don't think anyone works anymore, as this was mid-week.
Soon thereafter, we ventured onto downtown roads, and most were very easy to negotiate. The ones with green bike lanes are especially fun! They don't all have these, but most at least have a bike lane. We felt very safe and almost honored riding here with all the facilities to help keep cyclists safe. Go Portland!
We saw the metro, called "Max". We'd take that later in our trip, but not today.
And here is a large group of food trucks and carts that Portland is also famous for.
But here's what we came for: Voodoo Doughnuts! Barry was a happy man, even though he had to wait in line. This place is popular!
I stayed with the bikes outside and enjoyed people watching. The funniest thing I saw was a stretch limo pull up outside Voodoo Doughnuts. The formally dressed driver waited while someone inside got their doughnuts and loaded two of Voodoo's traditional pink boxes into the trunk. I didn't recognize if it was an actual celebrity (maybe just his or her lackey), but I thought the entire situation was definitely befitting of the sign above the limo!
Meanwhile, Barry was able to check out the lively, colorful interior of the shop while waiting in line. Love it!
Their incredible menu...
And just some of the incredible creations...from the sublime to the downright bizarre.
Here is one happy man!
Top tier are the voodoo doll doughnuts that made this place famous. Each one is slightly different. They are filled with raspberry jelly "blood" and are oh-so-delicious.
And here's the rest of his dozen, of all shapes and sizes. Oh my!
We managed to polish off several while at the shop, then put the extras into a huge ziploc bag I'd brought along to take with us. Needless to say, we rolled away several pounds heavier and a whole lot more sluggish than when we arrived!
So, needing to do a lot more riding if we hoped to work off all those evil calories and carbs, we headed back to the riverfront trail and rode south.
This time we crossed the Hawthorne Bridge to get to the Springwater Corridor, which travels along the Willamette River for a ways, then continues east to the city of Gresham and beyond. Check out this great wide bike/ped corridor on the bridge. It's as wide as the lane for motor vehicles!
Below is my favorite image from this day; Barry took it looking back over to the other side of the Willamette River, where we'd just been. I love the way all the colorful buildings are reflected in the river. The water was beautifully glassy at that point.
Along the Springwater Corridor, what did we happen upon but a Voodoo Doughnut cart here in "Cartlandia". Too cool. We walked around but couldn't possibly eat another bite of anything, no matter how delicious.
We stopped in a city park along the trail in Gresham for another doughnut or two, if you can believe it.
Eventually it got Boring and we decided to turn around.
JUST KIDDING! The trail ends in the town of Boring! Too funny!
On the way back, we turned off the Springwater Corridor and headed north on the I-205 Trail to head back towards our hotel. We rode near the Max (metro) line for a good part of the way. This interesting sculpture was at one of the metro stations.
This bike path runs alongside I-205. I love that they made the signs for the bike version look like the interstate signs. There was a lot less traffic on the bike path than on the interstate road alongside us. I bet we were having a lot more fun than most of the motorists on the highway.
Although most of this trail is urban and not very scenic, a short portion of it runs through this incredibly green and quaint neighborhood. I think it was called Maplewood. The houses were adorable, and everything was quiet, green, and manicured. It felt like we were a million miles from the interstate, yet it was actually very close by.
There was even this adorable sculptural water fountain for people and their four-legged friends along the trail in this charming neighborhood. Wish Paisley had been along with us!
The plane in the above photo clued us in to the fact that we were very close to the Portland International Airport. We had a good view of it when we passed by on the trail.
Almost back to the hotel -- I think we'll make it!
I ended up with just under 65 miles on the day (I think Barry got a bit more as he always does extra here and there while I take breaks). It was a super fun, varied ride, and definitely proved to us that YES, Portland is supremely bike-friendly and very easy to get around. We can see why there are many people living here car-free. Between the metro, buses, bikes, and walking, you could get just about anywhere you need to go in the city without a car.
That's almost as sweet as a dozen Voodoo Doughnuts!
Since arriving in Portland, Oregon late Monday afternoon, we've been having an amazing, busy time and have been on the go almost every minute! I've already fallen way behind on blogging, and it will take a week of rainy days to get caught up completely.
But before we even start blogging Portland, I wanted to share our photos from the absolutely stunning drive we had heading west from Walla Walla in eastern Washington State. We got some great travel tips from my friends Terese and Teri, so we took our time and enjoyed the beautiful sights along the way.
The Columbia River Gorge is absolutely "GORGE-ous"! The first dramatic sights began right after we turned off WA Highway 12 onto Highway 730 near Wallula. All of a sudden we came over a hill and the Columbia River was right THERE, staring us in the face. We were greeted with amazing gorge views like these. And of course it was much more dramatic in three dimensions than flat photographs can begin to show.
We crossed into Oregon soon after and would drive westward along the Columbia River for miles and miles, seeing dramatic cliffs, wind farms, and breathtaking views everywhere we looked.
There were quite a few bridges across the river between Oregon and Washington, all unique in design.
As Terese told us, rather abruptly the scenery would change from dry, brown desert-like landscapes to green, forested, and lush. She was absolutely right. It does happen suddenly and takes you by surprise. And even though the sky was a bit hazy as we headed further west, all of a sudden we caught a glimpse of Mount Hood in the distance, looking incredibly regal, as if it were standing guard over the valley below. Wow!
We paid $1 toll to cross over to Washington to see the views from a different angle on this pretty green bridge. You can see how many evergreens grace the river banks now. Washington is called "the Evergreen State" for good reason!
The sun wasn't right to get any good photos of the Oregon side, so a bit over 20 miles farther west we paid another $1 to cross over this bridge back to Oregon.
Soon thereafter, we chose to get off the interstate and take the winding, scenic old highway 30 past a group of waterfalls in this area. Both Teri and Terese had highly recommended checking them out.
Next on the agenda was the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon, Multnomah.
We made one final quick photo stop at a viewpoint at the pinnacle of the windy climb up Highway 30. Here's the building at the pinnacle.
And the view from above, which was stunning. Contrast this with the rocky view when we first encountered the Columbia River Gorge earlier in the day, and you can really see the difference in landscape features.
It was refreshing to be back in an area with so many trees after the more arid eastern Washington landscape we'd been living in for a couple of months (although my hair is not a fan of the humidity!)
When we got into the Portland Metro area shortly after taking this final photo, we had to deal with tons of commuter traffic and the serenity we felt on this beautiful drive quickly fell away. But there were still plenty of good times to come, so stay tuned!
We've been seeing an advertising crawl on TV for Granny's Tamales ever since arriving in Walla Walla at the beginning of July. Looking them up online, I discovered that it is a family-owned business that originally started in Corpus Christi, Texas (where we spent the month of January!) using their grandmother's recipe. The business expanded to Walla Walla when another sibling decided to start making the tamales here.
We noticed that they had a booth at the Downtown Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings and finally, on our last Saturday in town, decided it was high time we give them a try.
We had chosen several flavors we wanted to try before we even got there. So at the booth, we were a bit taken aback to learn that you have to buy a dozen of the same flavor as that is how they are sold and packaged. It keeps them warm bundled together that way and is certainly simpler for the staff.
At $12 a dozen and having only one night to eat them all, we weren't going to be able to taste a variety of different flavors, like we hoped. We finally settled on the chicken jalepeno cream cheese and purchased a dozen to take home. They told us that was their most popular flavor.
I popped them into the fridge when we got back "home", and at dinner time, simply heated them in the microwave in their husks.
These are not large tamales, so a dozen was the perfect number for a dinner for the two of us: I ate five, and Barry ate seven. I made baby kale with Walla Walla onions and cherry tomatoes as a side dish.
So how did they taste? Yummy! There wasn't a lot of noticeable chicken, but the filling was spicy and good. Accompanied with chips, guac, and a Corona with lime, this was the perfect late-summer meal out on the deck.
We're glad we finally tried Granny's Tamales. They were a great way to finish up our summer here in Walla Walla!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs