#21 Portland

Part of Mt. St. Helens blast zone

Portland, a city of nearly six hundred thousand people, is divided into five quadrants.  (Think about it.)   Like Washington, D.C. where we once lived and Cape Coral where we now live, it has a northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest.  But perhaps just to be independent, Portland added a fifth “quadrant,” north.

Alie’s aunt Helen, the peculiar one, was a teacher.  Aunt Alice was the second female lawyer in Colorado.  Aunt Charlotte was the first female cruise director on the Matson Line.  Alie’s mother was the first female linotype operator on the San Francisco Examiner (but she moved on to publish a small town paper).  So it is no surprise that Aunt Rose, a missionary in China before World War II who suffered at the hands of both the Japanese and Communists, settled in independent Portland, and her five children stayed in the area.

On our first night in Portland, we met Cousin Rosemary.  But on our way from Astoria, we diverted into Washington to visit Mount St. Helens, site of the famous May 1980 explosive volcanic eruption.  The area was declared a National Monument in 1982. Short of time, we raced up State Route 504 to the Coldwater Ridge Visitor’s Center.  The crater was only dimly visible through the clouds, but we still could see the massive effects of the eruption after all these years.

Before the eruption, the mountain developed a huge bulge on one side.  Scientists correctly predicted the blast would move sideways.  A red zone was marked from which everyone was evacuated.  Beyond that was a blue zone where it was felt that it was safe for observers.  Unfortunately, the blast carried through both zones and beyond.  Only the fact that it was a Sunday when loggers were not working prevented more people from being killed.  As it was, fifty-seven died in the blast and subsequent flooding.

Scientists studied the results of Mount St. Helens’ sideway explosion and have now found more than two hundred other locations around the world that they attribute to similar volcanic blasts.

Meeting Rosemary (the GPS took us to the wrong quadrant), we walked along the Willamette River. We then had dinner at a restaurant from which we could see teams practicing for “dragon boat” races to be held during the June Rose Festival.  The colorful and elaborately decorated dragon boats have double seats with a paddler on each side.

As we were not meeting Cousin Wendy until three, thr next morning we drove out to see Mount Hood.  Like most of the mountains near the coast, it was still shrouded in clouds.  But it was a pretty day, and the snow was brilliant in the sun.  It was fun to see people skiing and snowboarding on Memorial Day weekend.  And we had lunch in the Timberline Lodge, built by the Works Project Administration (WPA) in 1936.  The WPA was the “stimulus package” of the Depression until it was declared un-Constitutional.

Meeting Wendy in Portland’s huge Washington Park, we walked around the beautiful Japanese Gardens before strolling through the International Rose Test Garden.  Portland’s climate is ideal for roses, and it calls itself the “Rose City.”  I was told the gardens, which are used to test new types of roses, are the largest of their kind in the U.S.  They have four and a half acres and more than five hundred and fifty varieties.

After dinner at a great Thai restaurant, we visited The Meditation Center, an ashram where Wendy has lived for the last six or so years.  She teaches yoga and meditation.  We were disappointed we didn’t get a chance to see her daughter again this time.  She is about to enter medical school.

The following day we drove up the Columbia River Gorge before meeting more of the clan – Paige, Thomas, Jon, Bob, Robert Jr., Anita, Wendy and Rosemary – for dinner.

Multnomah Falls, just off I-84 and U.S. 30, is two cataracts, one 542 feet high and one 69 feet high.  The bridge that goes over the lower falls makes gives the entire area a particular charm.  They had an interesting measure of the average water flow: 660 bathtubs completely full per minute.

Our timing at the Bonneville Dam was perfect.  We were first in line when we arrived at the gate, so the security check which included looking in the back of our Jeep – wheelchair, boxes, bags, etc. – took no time at all.  Then we arrived at the visitor’s center just in time to take a tour of the power plant.  After we toured, we had a picnic lunch by the spillway which was running full from the spring snow melt.

Further up river, we stopped at the “Bridge of the Gods” and Cascade Locks.  The bridge was nice, but until we read a plaque we didn’t understand the reference.  Evidently, around 1060 A.D. there was a massive landslide that blocked the entire valley.  The Indian oral tradition said that they prayed to the Great Spirit to allow the fish to come back up the river, and a tunnel formed under the landslide with a land bridge, the Bridge of the Gods, over it.  Eventually, it all eroded leaving the cascades that challenged the early pioneers.  The cascades are now under the water created by the dam.

Going back to town on the Washington side of the river, we walked back a trail to the site of the 1853 Fort Cascade where Lieutenant Phil Sheridan once fought Indians.  We also stopped briefly to take pictures of the wind-surfers enjoying the day.

We made a final stop in Portland the next day before taking Michelle to the airport so she could return to productive employment.  We went downtown to see Portlandia, a 38-foot high copper statue of a kneeling woman created to represent the city.  Weighing a svelte six and a half tons, she is only one third the size of the Statue of Liberty but is still the second largest such statue in the country.

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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