Portland, a cool (70 degrees) vacation destination – Redlands Daily Facts

I spent a long weekend in Portland, Oregon, and had the usual great time in one of my favorite cities. Having a great time could have been predicted — unlike the temperatures.

A week before my departure, highs during my stay were going to be in the mid-90s. As my trip got closer, the forecast highs dropped into the 80s, and then the low 80s. To be safe, I packed one long-sleeve shirt and a pair of jeans along with short-sleeve shirts and shorts.

By the time I touched down, the short-term predictions were in the 70s, with lows in the 50s. This is accurate. I donned my single long-sleeve shirt every morning and every evening, sometimes with a second layer, and wore my jeans daily. The shorts, and most of my short-sleeve shirts, remained in my suitcase.

“How is Claremont, California?” the desk clerk asked jovially when I checked in. “About 15 degrees hotter than here,” I replied.

Portland having no baseball team, I visited the city — this was my sixth time — to pursue my other interests: bookstores, record stores, dining, public transit.

Powell’s Books is by some measures the largest bookstore in the world, occupying an entire city block and stocking a million books over four floors.

I think it’s four floors. It might be five. You take a few steps up here to one room, a few steps down over there to another, and if you walk through the right door, you find a mezzanine with a lower floor. It’s a little like San Diego’s old Horton Plaza, where you might get lost and not mind it.

Powell’s Books occupies a city block in Portland, Oregon. This is only a portion of the sprawling, multilevel bookstore. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Because Powell’s is overwhelming, I go for an hour or so every day to check out a different area: nonfiction one day, science fiction and mystery another, fiction and literature last.

Even with 1 million books, Powell’s doesn’t have everything. I brought my want list, which is full of out-of-print titles, and most weren’t available. But I bought four books at the main store and a fifth at the Hawthorne branch, and that’ll occupy some time.

Likewise, I hit up two record stores. Everyday Music has shrunk since my last visit, giving up two-thirds of its floor space, but it’s still large. I had no idea Loudon Wainwright III, one of my favorite singer-songwriters, had a brand-new record until idly flipping through the CD bins. The wryly titled “Lifetime Achievement” is about turning 75.

And Music Millennium, which required a bus ride to reach, is always worth the effort. Founded in 1969, it seems to still be going strong. My two jazz CD purchases (Ella Fitzgerald, Pharoah Sanders) won’t hurt.

Speaking of buses, I was all over them. I rode a bus out to the breakfast joint Gravy in the Boise neighborhood; down to SE Hawthorne to the other Powell’s; and from Music Millennium in Laurelhurst to Khao Man Gai in East Portland and then back to my Pearl District hotel.

At the chicken-rice specialist Khao Man Gai, by the way, the gregarious guy at the register waggled his fingers above the printer waiting for my receipt to rise up, saying, “Sim, sim, salabim.” I laughed.

“Thank you,” he said. “You’re the first person to laugh at that joke.”

“I grew up watching ‘Jonny Quest,'” I told him.

Portland has New York City-level transit, amazing for a city of 650,000. Streetcars, light rail and buses serve the city. The Max light rail will whisk you between downtown and the airport terminals for $2.50.

(Meanwhile, as mentioned here before, the Inland Empire will be virtually transit-free for Labor Day weekendand it’s been a while since we heard anything about 325,000-population Riverside’s concept for a streetcar line.)

A streetcar runs near Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.  The city is practically a transit paradise.  (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
A streetcar runs near Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. The city is practically a transit paradise. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Buying a transit pass in Portland involves a technology that was new to me. A friendly bus driver explained it to me. Tap your credit card against the reader at the fare box and you’re charged $2.50. The information on your pass is stored…somehow.

If you tap again for another ride within the pass’ window of time, 2 1/2 hours, the reader will show that you’re good. Tap later in the day, and you’ll be charged a final $2.50, and the reader will declare, “Day pass earned!” Ditto for any further fare taps.

You don’t achieve a lot while on vacation, and why should you? It’s a vacation. Earning a day pass was where I peaked.

Because Portland is a walkable city with short blocks, I got 12,000 or more steps a day. At one point, getting to one destination was 17 minutes whether I took transit or walked, so I walked.

One walk was intentional. That was crossing the Willamette River on foot via Tilikum Crossing, a cable-stayed bridge that is solely for pedestrians, cyclists and transit.

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