Keep Portland Weird

Memorial Day ended with a wonderful visit from two friends we met in Alaska, Sue and Jonathon.  They were 6 months into their tour of the U.S. when we met, and I was fascinated because they were full timing with a car and a tent.  We became Facebook friends and I loved watching their travels (her pictures are amazing) and enjoyed seeing their adventures, so when Sue reached out and said they were close I jumped at the chance to see them.  Now they are 1-1/2 years into their tour of the U.S. and almost finished.  They still are in their car, but also stay at Air BnB’s every third day or so to give themselves a break.  Jonathon is from Wyoming, but Sue is from South Korea, and her story is fascinating.  She grew up on a remote farm on a mountain top, and was either going to or in school from 5am – 11pm, six days a week.  Her parents went against the societal norms and sent all four of their daughters, as well as their son, to college.  Sue initially wanted to work for the UN so she focused on her English skills which eventually led her to teaching, and that is where she met Jonathon who was in Korea teaching English.  They still go back to Korea at least once a year for medical care because the cost is so much cheaper than in the U.S. We spent quite a bit of time talking about that subject!  And since my  youngest daughter will be stationed in Jorea for a year or so, I was very interested in getting their take on the recent North Korea news.  Talking to them made me feel quite a bit better and I was excited that Sue has a sister who lives close to where Kay will be stationed.

We had a campfire and a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant, the Cazedero Inn.  Despite having not seen each other in almost a year the conversation picked up right where we left off and reminded me why I love friendships in this lifestyle.  One of the most interesting topics was what was next on their agenda, and they think they will spend a year teaching English in Vietnam.  Asian countries have a high demand for English teachers and since the courses are mostly immersion, often no foreign language skills are required.  They also don’t require a teaching degree, just a bachelors, and since I have my MBA, Jonathon felt my skills would be in high demand.  The entire opportunity sounded very interesting to me, as I have always wanted to travel internationally and it was of particular interest since our daughter will be stationed there.   The only downside for me was the length of the contracts which often are for one year.  It’s possible with my background I could get a shorter assignment and it is definitely something I want to look into further next year.

That’s another wonderful thing I have found about this life.  You have a somewhat random encounter, which turns into a real friendship.  Social media allows us to stay in touch until the next time our paths cross each other.  It was really wonderful, and I was so happy to spend time with them. Lee was a little bummed because he enjoyed their company so much and since they are leaving the country soon won’t get to see them again, but I think you never how these things are going to work out and with certain people it just works out.  I think with Sue it will be like that.

Lee, Sue, and Jonathon at the campfire

Me and Sue

Tuesday we followed our plan to take the day off and we both needed it.  Also it rained all day, so it wasn’t a hardship, although I did get a little restless in the afternoon and we took a drive and explored the area a bit.  More clouds were forecast on Wednesday as well, so we planned a day in Portland. I had a list of places I wanted to see (many recommended by friends and blog readers) and a rainy Wednesday seemed a good day to do it.  We discussed taking public transportation, but it really isn’t that cheap, and besides Lee wanted the flexibility of driving our own vehicle. Turns out early morning mid-week was a good time to go, and we easily found parking spots.  It got tougher as the day went on, but early morning it was mostly no problem.  The good thing we discovered about the parking tickets was we could use them at multiple locations (as long as we stayed in the same district) and that was nice because it was $1.50 an hour to park and paying that every time we moved spots would have really added up.

Parking meter printed a ticket you left inside your window.  Credit card or coins, but no bills

These bike racks were pretty cool

The annual pass price was really interesting.  $12 per month and 90 minutes per day.

I loved that the bus had “Honored  Citizens” instead of senior citizens.  #2.50 for Adults, $1.25 for others

Our first stop didn’t open until 10:00 am so we headed down to VooDoo Donuts.  This is THE place everyone says you have to visit, but I think that is mainly because they have a bacon donut. As an added bonus the Keep Portland Weird sign is right across the street and we had our donut and took the sign picture.




$130 for a custom made coffin filled with donuts. This was actually pretty cool and pretty large

The first of the many similar signs we saw throughout the city, which was interesting given recent events.

We didn’t really understand how it worked, but the donuts were rotating in a glass case so you picked one and paid for it

I liked the ones topped with cereal

Lee pondered the bacon donut

But we both ended up with a $3 voodoo donut which was had a raspberry cream filling

It was a good donut and when you bit into it the filling made it look like blood. Was actually pretty fun.  What wasn’t as fun was seeing the first of many homeless people with signs (behind Lee).  There were homeless people pretty much everywhere there was open space.

I definitely think they have accomplished that. It is a weird town.

Next up was the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This garden takes up a city block in the Old Town Chinatown District.  I had read that it was free and it may have been at one time, but now it is staffed, and costs $10 per person.  It was really pretty inside and they had a nice flower display, but it was just too small to warrant the $10 fee, unless like me you really like Chinese gardens. If I lived nearby I could see being a member, because they have lots of activities and events scheduled throughout the year.  It is small though, and even though we took our time we saw everything in less than an hour. Fair warning.

There was a small crowd waiting at 10:00 am when it opened

The architecture was amazing

And despite the fact the city buildings were in the background you honestly didn’t notice it when you were in there. It was a nice little oasis

They had a beautiful flower display

I also liked the large stone sculptures, which turned out to be Lake Tai rocks which are formed underwater by the lake’s acidic and active waters.

Each building had a different theme. This one housed an an area to honor ancestors, which I thought was really neat since it was the grandparents of one of the staff members.

I also enjoyed the poems carved into wood and displayed on hangers throughout the gardens. If you go take the time to read the translations

This was my favorite


I also enjoyed this cabinet which held fortunes

You picked your favorite number and opened the drawer

Then saw your fortune. Really neat

Glad we did it, but we still had lots of time, so it was on to Powell’s Bookstore. This is the world’s largest independent bookstore and I have to admit it was huge.  It was multiple floors with multiple sections and had hands down the best fantasy/science fiction selection I have seen anywhere.

A standard shelf which was amazing, but the top two rows were always overstocks and only available for staff.

Seven different rooms which was nice because the layout was pretty confusing

The science fiction and fantasy room was so big I couldn’t take a picture of it all. It had 7 long rows of books. I liked how the new and used books were shelved together so you could decide which one you wanted if they had both.

Lee was really excited about this “book on demand” machine.

You all know we love books, and you know our budget often takes a hit from spending too much on them.  So I think it’s interesting that despite the amazing selection neither one of us bought a book. Yep, it’s true.  I am not sure if we were overwhelmed by choice or it was a price issue, but we didn’t buy anything.  Personally every book I saw that I wanted was more than I wanted to pay, and because there was so much choice it was hard for any one thing to grab my attention.  I did like the fact that they had staff picks signs throughout the store that said why the staff member liked the book, but I looked at almost every one of those and nothing struck my fancy.  With Lee it was also about price, but really knowing him it was more about there was nothing he REALLY wanted.  And I have to say it might have been a different story if it wasn’t for the Book Nook here in Estacada.  That store is the nonprofit here in town and no book is over $2.  Since their cookbook selection is amazing and their prices are incredibly low it’s tough to compete with that. No disrespect to Powell’s at all. It’s an amazing store and you absolutely should see it.

That section of town was also the only place where we didn’t see homeless people.  I know I keep mentioning that, but there were people living in almost every available green public space we saw.  Culverts, strips of land next to freeways, under overpasses, lots and lots of homeless people and this is despite the fact that we saw at least 5 shelters downtown and lots of assistance programs.

Shelters in what seemed like every stretch of grass between the roads and private property

This was one of the “nicer” spots

This young woman was sleeping right on the street around 11am, with open businesses on either side

I certainly don’t know what the solution is and I am not making any sort of political statement, but it is so prevalent, that I want you to be aware of it before going into town. Personally I was pretty surprised.  Like I said though, the area Powell’s books is in was an upscale neighborhood, and there weren’t people living near those stores.

The Whole Foods was interesting and took up a whole block

Whole foods from the street

Finally, we went back to our original stop and went to Smith Tea. We have seen their tea in our travels and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go see their warehouse.  Plus they have a tasting room and offer a “flight” of 4 kinds of tea for $10.  The warehouse is definitely in a rougher neighborhood, but they have parking right in front and the experience inside was great.  Smith’s is really serious about their tea, and go into great detail about where it comes from and the flavors that go into the different kinds.  It reminded me more of a fancy wine tasting than a beer flight tasting, but I loved the experience and am glad I did it.  Lee humored me 🙂

Another sign

The tea “bar”

Awesome selection

My flight

My four choices

And the winner is!!

So our trip to Portland was a mixed bag.  I am happy we saw most of the places we wanted to see there because I am not in any big hurry to go back into the city again.  There is so much wonderful nature to see outside of the city, that for me at least, it really can’t compare.  My take is if you only have a day to spend in Portland, skip the city and go see the waterfalls 🙂


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12 thoughts on “Keep Portland Weird

  1. Wow! That’s the longest anybody has ever written about meeting us! It is such a sweet post! Well, keeping Portland weird part is interesting, too! We will keep in touch and will definitely be back in September to see you guys!

  2. The Clackamas County Library off Sunnyside Rd, Happy Valley, has a large used book section with all books, tapes and music CD’s 50 cents each. They have a few magazines that are free. You can find some real bargains. The Sandy library has an even larger used book section but the prices are much higher. Have not checked the other county libraries lately so not sure how much their used books are. Check them out if you have a chance. It is just down the road from the new Fred Meyer grocery and New Seasons Market. Both of these stores have a large selection of precooked foods and the latter will cook when you order also. There are also several farmer’s markets that are open during the week.
    Really enjoy your photos of our area.

  3. Totally understand your comments on the homeless, everywhere. Took me a while to understand it, but then agin how many cities have reasonable year round temps and so many charitable orgs to provide support? We found similar circumstances in Seattle, but with slightly colder winters, definitely more present in Portland.
    Love Powells books, spent lots there before we became FT and HD weight limit😊
    Love Portland, it was a great getaway for us when we lived in the Settle area😊

    • I get it too but find it unsettling. It’s a complicated issue for sure especially because mental health issues often complicate things. I mainly wanted to mention it because it was a major part of the landscape least while we were there. We really were never big city people to begin with and now that we live in an RV much less so.

  4. Glad you got to VooDoo Donuts! Isn’t it the strangest selection of donuts you’ve ever seen? Bill was surprised Lee didn’t get the Maple Bacon! Not sure if Mount St Helens is in your radar, it’s about a 102 mile drive (one way) from you but very interesting – check it out for a possible day trip!

    • I remembered Bill for the bacon donut and was surprised by Lee’s choice as well. I did enjoy watching him tear into the voodoo donut though lol. We bought a tent (which I will be talking about in an upcoming post) which should give us more opportunities for overnight trips.!

      • Did you (each) manage to eat the whole thing? I picked out a voodoo donut at the Austin location; I felt a little ill after I ate the whole thing! Delicious though.

        Re: books — I resisted eReaders for a very long time, but my hubby bought me a Kindle for Christmas because “You can’t take all of your books in the RV!” It’s amazing how many books you can get on sale for $.99 or less. I also grab them at thrift stores (when reasonable) and make great use of the book swap bookshelf at the campgrounds. Who are some of your favorite fantasy/SciFi authors?

  5. I urge you to make a trip to the Portland Farmer’s Market on Saturday, if you can. In my opinion, it is the best in the country. And that’s saying a lot from this Seattle gal who loves Pike Place Market. 🙂

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