Our last few urban stops were short and stressful due to the difficulty of finding overnight parking, but we needed to make sure our visit to Portland was under better circumstances so we could give it a fair evaluation as a place we might call home. By appealing to our network of friends via Facebook, we arranged to park in a gated space behind a commercial building very close to downtown. We stayed for five nights – long enough to really check out the city, but not too long to overstay our welcome (or our water tank capacities).

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, which happened to be Bike to Work day. Now, we may not be working, but we love bicycles and thought this would be a good opportunity to join in a group ride. We cycled over to the meeting place for the after-work group ride. The route to the downtown park was entirely on bike lanes, because the city has great cycling infrastructure, and car drivers are even respectful of bicycles. When I got to an uncontrolled crosswalk across two lanes of one-way traffic, I stopped and intended to wait for John to catch up, but both lanes of traffic stopped for me to cross. No traffic light, no traffic cop, two lanes of cars just stopped because I was standing adjacent to a crosswalk. Entirely flustered at the unexpected courtesy, I crossed the street and waited on the other side for John. I am used to riding in New York, where cyclists have to aggressively fight for space with cars and pedestrians, even space within dedicated bike lanes, and every intersection has a traffic light (NYC drivers would never yield to pedestrians otherwise). Cycling in Portland is a whole new experience. The most aggression I witnessed between any two users of the road was at dusk when a cyclist said to a driver in a completely calm voice, “Turn on your lights, bitch”. I am not naturally an aggressive person, quite the opposite in fact, but I became a cyclist in New York City and the cyclist I became is the aggro-NYC cyclist that can navigate the hostile roads of that city. Turning that off will take some practice, but cycling in Portland is so much more pleasant. The group ride, though, was a bust. A small number of people gathered who had all come out of a business conference together, it was not the diverse group of dedicated bicycle commuters we had expected, so we left and went on with our evening.

Uncharacteristically for the northwest in May, the weather was amazing for most of our stay. Sunny, dry and warm. We cycled all over the city, checking out different neighborhoods, parks and gardens. We met up with friends old and new over some of Oregon’s famous craft beers. We paid an obligatory visit to Portland’s most famous attraction, Powell’s bookstore, checked out a specialized bicycle store dedicated to folding and commuter bikes (John loves to look at bikes as well as ride them), walked through the Saturday Market, and cheered for runners at the Rock and Roll half-marathon. I even had opportunity to check out two different food coops!

We had an amazing time exploring the city by bicycle, and decided that yes, Portland is a place we would like to live. We love the infrastructure for and popularity of cycling. It is small enough that we can get from one end of town to the other in about an hour, but big enough that there is an urban core (albeit a tiny one) supporting businesses that offer us career opportunities. There are many farmers’ markets, parks, and it is close to the mountains. Portland definitely offers everything that we are looking for in a new home.

Portland is known as the City of Roses, in part due to the International Rose Test Garden, where this early bloom was on display.

Portland is known as the City of Roses, in part due to the International Rose Test Garden, where this early bloom was on display.

Rhododendrons were in full bloom so I paid a visit to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Every yard in my hometown has at least on rhododendron bush, but I had forgotten how beautiful they are in spring.

Rhododendrons were in full bloom so I paid a visit to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Every yard in my hometown has at least on rhododendron bush, but I had forgotten how beautiful they are in spring.

Another rhododendron, or ‘rhody’ as they are called around here.

Another rhododendron, or ‘rhody’ as they are called around here.

The garden has more in bloom than just rhododendrons.

The garden has more in bloom than just rhododendrons.

I love the color pattern on these flowers.

I love the color pattern on these flowers.

The ubiquitous squirrel, shown here eating a rhody flower.

The ubiquitous squirrel, shown here eating a rhody flower.

Cute fuzzy goslings at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Cute fuzzy goslings at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Crystal Springs Lake is home to many ducks (well fed by the visitors, who are instructed on what to feed them). I don’t think I have ever seen one with this coloring before.

Crystal Springs Lake is home to many ducks (well fed by the visitors, who are instructed on what to feed them because bread is bad for their health). I don’t think I have ever seen one with this coloring before.

While I was looking at flowers, John took a gondola ride.

While I was looking at flowers, John took a gondola ride.

 View of the Cascade mountains from the gondola.

View of the Cascade mountains from the gondola.

GO BY BIKE, indeed.

GO BY BIKE, indeed.

 May 17 – 20, 2014

One Thought on “This may be home

  1. Congratulations on the good fortune of being pleased with the place like you thought you would. I will await further developments!

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