I caught the Greyhound down to Portland which took a fairly lengthy 4.5 hours as we stopped off along the way for pick ups and drop offs. I wish I'd gotten on the coach sooner to get the pick of the seats as I ended up sat at the back - right next to the toilet door which was kicking out a right pong throughout the journey! I was also sat near a hip-hop guy who got on looking all gangsta and then blew his street cred by listening to Phil Collins on his MP3 player! Ha ha
After getting off the coach I took a local bus and found my hostel quite easily. It's about a 10 min bus ride out of town and over the river in the Hawthorne district of Portland. The district itself seems to have a little town feel all of its own, its a nice area to stay in. My hostel is an eco friendly place, they're big on recycling there and its quite clean too which is nice as over the last 7 or so months I've stayed in some pretty rank places! The only downside is that I'm staying in a basement room which can get quite cold at night. Still, there's plenty of extra blankets around which helps. I didnt do a lot on my first night, just cooked and chilled out, the coach journey wore me out!
My first full day in Portland was spent in the usual way, wandering around the city finding my bearings. I got a map and just put one foot in front of the other. I popped into a shop and got chatting to the girl who owns it, Carlee, who gave me lots of tips for Portland and NY where she's originally from. I also got told about a party by a guy from my hostel that was to take place that evening. So after I had wandered around town for a while, I headed back to the hostel and after eating, headed up the Hawthorne Boulevard to the Mount Tabor theatre which as far as venues go is a damn good one! It was $8 in, $3 beers, 2 stages with bands playing simultaneously and a corridor linking the two rooms covered in neon and fluorescent trippy artwork! There were several bands on that night all playing fairly bluesy,trippy,prog/garage psychedelic stuff as well as some Black Sabbath and Grateful Dead covers, I cant remember the names of the bands but it was a cracking night. Unbeknownst to me, the night was put on by Zane Kesey, son of the author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey. I chatted to him for a while and he told me he was at his fathers ranch as a young child when his dad threw a party for the Hells Angels way back in the mid 60's. Zane still organises events under the name of the Merry Pranksters. The set up for the gig was a good one, full of light projectors and trippy visuals as well as dancing girls on podiums with hula hoops that lit up when they twirled them. So plenty of beer and music later I rolled in at 3am. Most of the next day was written off, ha ha
The plus of doing nothing the next day was that I saved money. The following day I met up with Jesika who is from Portland. I had met her whilst staying in a hostel in New Zealand. I had originally arranged to meet her the day beforehand but due to my overindulgence the night before I had to re-arrange things! Jesika drove us out to the West Hills which overlook Portland and also to a couple of other spots that I wouldnt otherwise have seen. I got some great pictures of the city from up on the hills, Oregon as a state is a lot greener than California, well, more so than L.A and San Diego anyway! After a while of driving around we realised it was mid afternoon, the sun was out so we headed for a nice cold afternoon pint! As Jesika is from Portland she knew the good spots to drink too.
We went to a bar called the Shanghai Tunnels which is a basement bar that plays metal and has some cool pinball machines in it. The name of the bar has a fairly sinister origin. Way back at the turn of the 20th century, there used to be gangs operating in Portland that would drug people, abduct them and lock them away in secret tunnels below the city after having dropped them through a trap door. The abductees would wake up stripped of clothes and shoes and surrounded by broken glass, unable to escape. They would then be taken from the tunnels to a waiting boat which would take them out of the country to work in China, hence the term 'Shanghai'd'. Dark eh?
After a drink or two we headed up to the PGE Park which is Portlands sports ground. There we met up with Micah, Jesika's boyfriend as well as some friends of theirs. The city soccer team, the Portland Timbers were playing that evening and although I dont hold any interest in football I went along as I didnt want to seem rude by turning down the invite. We bought some cheap beers as it was thirsty Thursday and got our seats. The thing that set this soccer match apart from any we'd have in England is the Timbers' mascot - Timber Joe. He had a live chainsaw and and was dressed as a lumberjack and every time the team scored he would saw off a section of a log that was behind the goal! Ace! So for that reason I wanted them to score and win, which they did, 3-0. You'd never find a live chainsaw inside a football ground in the UK because of health and safety laws, ha ha
After the match we headed over the road to a bar where all the fans meet, had one in there before heading to Kellys Bar, a cool place with loads of neon lights behind the bar and motorcycles hanging from the ceiling which Mike informed me are completely ready to ride. After a drink or two and a lengthy chat about bad tattoos and other random subjects I went back to the hostel and crashed out as soon as my head touched the pillow!
I didnt do much the day afterward as I got up late and hadnt made any prior plans as to how I would fill the day. Some days its nice not to rush around and be busy trying to see everything and instead just do nothing. Which I did pretty much. I went for a coffee, had a wander around the shops, went to the cinema in the afternoon as it required little effort and then back to the hostel where I cooked and read til I went to bed.
The following morning I got up early to head to an internet cafe to speak to Ciara and my family. Afterward I planned to head over to the Portland Japanese gardens which are some of the biggest and best outside of Japan but by the time I went to catch the bus over the other side of town it would have left me an hour to walk round there. So the next day I headed out once again to see the gardens and found that the bus wasnt running up there as it was a Sunday. Mission failed. Instead, I bought some beers and sat in at the hostel chatting with the other guests til 1am.
On my last day in Portland I went out to Columbia Gorge with Jesika, Micah and Micah's two dogs, Lucky and Selma. Columbia Gorge is a large area which is next to the Columbia river which pretty much divides Washington and Oregon. There are lots of different waterfalls and plenty of different hikes to choose from. Thankfully, Jes and Micah chose one that wasnt too harsh, I was glad too as I didnt have a lot of energy after the previous nights 6-pack! Still, the walk woke me up and it was good to get out in the open and breath fresh air as so far in the US i've just spent my time in cities. At the end of the walk we camr to Multnomah falls which is the second highest year round waterfall in the US. Quite impressive it was too! Afterward we headed back into Portland and to a cracking Thai restaurant where I had some fantastic spicy noodles. After our feed we went for a beer and after a beer I needed a nap!
That evening the three of us went to a local cinema in Hawthorne, the Baghdad theatre which was built by Universal pictures many years ago. It has a real old picture house feel to it and a huge screen as well as a balcony that you can watch the film from if you dont want to sit downstairs. After the movie it was late and I had to be up so Micah dropped me back at the hostel.
The next morning Jesika picked me up and drove me to the airport where I was lucky enough to get let off my checked baggage charge by the lady on the airline counter. Guess she was having a good morning! I flew into Sacramento where I spent two nights and didnt really do a great deal! I had originally planned 4 nights there but when people started asking me why I wanted to spend so long there, alarm bells started ringing, ha ha. I used my time there to get organised, put my pictures up using the library PC's and kill a bit of time by going to the cinema - again.
I'm in Yosemite right now which is just great but I'll write about it all later..