Rose City/Columbia Gorge Review


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Between the ages of 10-15 my grandparents rented a house on the Oregon coast. Since I used to spend much of my summers with my grandparents I have a nostalgic fondness for the Pacific Northwest. That said, I haven’t had many occasions to head back to that part of the country, and only made a brief appearance for a wild and life-changing trip to Bandon Dunes with my father-in-law last year (that deserves its own 2000 word article). So suffice to say, I was excited to get the chance to spend a few days in Portland and the Columbia River Gorge to see my wife’s lifelong best friend get married.

The trip started last Wednesday with some chaos at the airport, which ultimately will allow me to attend March Madness in Vegas courtesy of Southwest Airlines. When I travel I usually have a schedule of things I have to do or see, or am traveling for work. Therefore I never have the occasion or opportunity to take advantage of the airlines’ propensity to oversell their flights. This time my wife and I were arriving in Oregon early, and although she had bachelorette wine and paint and shots parties to attend that afternoon, I didn’t need to be in Oregon until about 5pm to meet a friend for dinner and a brewpub tour de force. Suffice to say, I took the deal, re-routed myself through Phoenix, and was compensated $501 for my four hour detour.

I highly recommend taking these deals if possible. They are a great way to save big money on air travel. Considering we have a pre-booked hotel in Vegas next year I pretty much have a trip pre-paid nine months out and can save my money on the important stuff like gambling on basketball!

I arrived in Portland around 4:30 p.m. and took the light rail downtown. Portland is a very easy city to get around in, and they have a very nice public transportation system. I checked into the Marriott Downtown Waterfront and jumped in a cab to meet an old friend at Deschutes Brewpub, the first of 5 breweries/bars that evening. After a Belgian IPA and a tasting flight we headed to Rogue for a Chipotle Ale, some kind of bacon-infused beer that tasted like a campfire, and some other disaster. When a woman fell face first into the concrete we decided it was time to leave. Rogue was not my favorite brewery.

Portland Sign

Portland Downtown

We took a walking tour of downtown Portland and crossed the Burnside Bridge to East Portland (“Portlandia”). Populated by hipsters and industrial locations, I actually felt sort of at home coming from Wicker Park in Chicago. It was more post-hipsterism than anything, i.e. invaded by Yuppies and craft breweries that are on their way to the mainstream. We hit Burnside Brewery (average) and an awesome dive-bar with skee-ball before hitting my favorite brewery from the trip, Cascade Barrel House (specializing in Sour Cask-Aged beer). This stuff was amazing (and strong). I went back the next day.

Cascade

Apparently my wife had too much fun at the bachelorette party because most of Thursday was spent in the hotel room. We got a breakfast burrito from the ever-present Portland food truck army and I went running by the river. We went back to Cascade and on to a BBQ at the wedding couple’s house. It was a rest day.

Friday we traveled 60 miles east of Portland through the Columbia River Gorge, some of the most stunning terrain I’ve seen in this country. It rivaled the Colorado River through the mountains west of Denver. Really pretty. I was dropped off at Full Sail Brewery in Hood River for the Packers game. Upon arrival I was greeted by 4 intoxicated people from Milwaukee who promptly chatted with me for an hour before handing me a gift card to cover my bill. Happy people in Oregon!

After a pre-wedding get together in Hood River catered by Chuck Wagon (you have really good food Chuck) I realized I did not have a ride to Dufur, Oregon (another 40 miles east of Hood River). Thankfully two other wedding guests allowed me to jump in their car (they didn’t have much of a choice), and we made it to the Historic Balch Hotel (history revealed the Balch was a 1900’s whorehouse). After checking in I immediately pleaded with the “saloon” across the street to remain open for an extra 90 minutes. We did some damage there and had an after-party at the hotel, which was really fitting and peaceful. We played some Texas country and kept everyone awake for a couple hours before going to bed.

saloon

Saturday was wedding day, and the weather was beautiful. I killed the time before the wedding by doing a fantasy football draft and sitting outside. Gorgeous ceremony and fun reception with great music and people. When it ended too quickly we went back to the saloon and eventually to bed.

Back to Portland Sunday morning. Sometime Saturday night I mentioned to my wife that we weren’t just watching the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders game Sunday, we were going. So she had that to look forward to! Honestly though, she’s amazing about stuff like that, so it was something to do before flying out on a 12:30 a.m. red eye.

Portland’s soccer stadium is called Providence Park and is situated just west of downtown in a nice spot. I really enjoyed the configuration for soccer. The Timbers Army section was completely full an hour before the game and they were LOUD. Also, I knew the Sounders/Timbers rivalry was big, but I did not know it was as venomous as it is. About 10 minutes before the game the Army rolled out three banners. The first said “there’s no place like home” – a reference to Oz and the “Emerald City.” The next was a large “Dorothy” banner, except she was holding a canister of gasoline. Finally they unveiled the (pictured) banner of the yellow brick road leading to Seattle . . . engulfed in flames.

Timbers Army

Seattle banner

The energy and atmosphere at this game was unmatched anywhere else in American sports. They have managed to capture the essence of European soccer perfectly, down to choreographed (vulgar) chants and full-time engagement in the game. A+++ experience that I highly recommend to anyone visiting this part of the county. The tickets were priced on par with an NFL game (we paid $75), but for a non-Seattle matchup they are closer to $30. Worth every penny and then some to see the Sounders game. Portland lost, but Clint Dempsey (USMNT captain playing for Seattle) scored, so I got what I wanted to see.

Overall, this was an amazing trip full of awesome events. I also got to meet a lot of great people who I had fun with. Special shout out to those who kept it going with me at the “Saloon” (you know who you all are) and of course again to Jenny and Dave. Congrats on an amazing wedding and a huge success of a trip for everyone who attended. I look forward to visiting you guys in Portland again!