I was up at 5:30am to hopefully get to the airport on time. I had decided my best bet was to order an Uber, as I didn’t think the earliest trains/buses combo would get me there in time (9:35am flight).
I was mildly concerned because the driver was dressed like a hitman, but then I realised that no hitman would ever go to a job in a Prius. Unless a new breed of hyper-environmentally friendly murderers for hire had passed me by, I was probably safe for the time being. Shout out to Anselmus for the ride.
My destination, Portland OR, was a short flight up the coast, during which I was struck by the greenery and lushness of the American Northwest. Oregon is well known for its wilderness, and so much so that it’s the kind of place where people have guns to protect themselves against bears, not because of a misplaced sense of duty to ancient legislation.
For the initial few days, I would be within the city, so the dangers were not bears, but the common tortoise-shell frame hipster. These bearded beings cycle the city on their fixies, seeking out freshly brewed coffee, assimilating passing strangers into their geometrically tattooed ranks. I spotted a high ranking officer early on, his seniority denoted by not only a beard and rounded glasses, but a PSG jacket, a niche team in a niche sport for the States.
My hostel was called Traveler’s House, and it was not a hostel as such, but a house turned into a hostel. I was greeted by Grant the proprietor, who had set up the hostel to be part of the local community, ethical, and very friendly. How hipster. I immediately felt at ease at the House, and it was refreshing to be sleeping in an environment that didn’t feel like a hostel. I’m pretty happy to sleep anywhere in all locations in all weathers, but it’s amazing how much of a difference your surroundings can make to your mind after a while. It was easy to recharge there. However, as I would soon find out, Portland was not as draining on introvert energy as other cities.
I was rather tired by this point, having decided to walk from the light rail stop to the hostel (about 3 miles lugging all my stuff), combined with the early start in San Francisco. I did need some food however, so I set off for a wander to the nearest shop. I soon stumbled across what was called a ‘food market’, but upon entering the establishment, I realised it was pretty much a weed paraphernalia shop that also sold some foods. I felt rather out of place browsing the cereals whilst being stared down by giant cannabis leaf flags. I just wanted some Weetabix.
I gathered a mishmash of food from what was on offer, and decided to make conversation with the cashier to fit in. I explained to him about all the weird and wonderful food stuffs that America sold that we didn’t have in the UK. He seemed very amazed by this fact, and I soon realised after I left the building that he had been absolutely baked. Portland and Oregon is well known for the legal use of cannabis, and it was very surreal to walk past dispensaries with people walking out with little brown paper bags, knowing that in other countries that would be cause for arrest.
Despite my tired start to Portland, and briefly losing my passport only to find it in the exact same place as I lost it last time (why are you like this Simon), I was really looking forward to exploring the city and surrounding area, knowing that I had a nice base to return to at the end of each day. I was also encouraged by Portland’s whimsical unofficial motto: ‘Keep Portland Weird’.