Tag Archives: 2013 trip

Two weeks ago today, Day 2

I love research.  Yes, I’m a history geek as well as a writer, and that’s just the way it is.  First thing in the morning I caught a bus to downtown Portland and walked the couple of blocks from the bus stop to the Oregon Historical Society Museum.  Fortunately, the weather had cleared up nicely, and was even warming a bit.

 Their library didn’t open until the afternoon, but the museum opened in the morning, and since I’d never been there before I wanted to see the exhibits. The early history exhibits were well done, but the part I liked the best was the recent history room, highlighting Oregon’s somewhat schizoid politics.  I lived in Eugene, Oregon, for several years during the mid-80s, and had been rather struck by them then — Eugene at the time was a cross between a college town, a logging and other resource-heavy economy, and the hippie equivalent of the elephants’ graveyard.  The juxtaposition was, fascinating, I think, is the term I want to use.  I’d forgotten a lot of that bemusement, and the museum brought it back to me.

 After the exhibits and before the library, I walked up the park blocks, a lovely thing to find in the middle of a city, to Pioneer Courthouse Square, in search of some of Portland’s quasi-legendary food carts.  It was a good place to look for them.  My choices included burritos, cheese steaks and several others.  I chose a cheese steak, which was as good as the ones I’d had in Philadelphia, their hometown, if a sandwich can be said to have a hometown, years ago.

 But the fun part was the quiz the proprietor gave me, based on a page-a-day calendar about famous mustaches, of all things.  The first question described Cesar Romero as the Joker in the old Batman series, and the second Raul Julia in the movie version of The Addams Family.  I got them both right, which won me a very surprised proprietor and a free soda. 

 After enjoying my cheese steak, and my soda, and watching floral decorations being installed on the square for the upcoming Rose Festival, I ambled back to the museum by way of the Multnomah County Library‘s main branch, where I wandered into the children’s room, named after Beverly Cleary, who is a Portland icon, and upstairs to the history section, where I wrote down the titles of some books that looked useful for research that I will interlibrary loan later.  I was very surprised that they didn’t have a local history room.  The Multnomah County Library is, I suspect, the biggest Carnegie library I’ve ever been in (it certainly fits the style, architecturally), but no local history room? 

And then there was the library at the Ohio Historical Society Museum.  Maybe that’s why the public library doesn’t have a local history room?  What I do know is that the librarian pulled a number of goodies out of her closed stacks, including a forest service document, book, really, of all things, discussing the early history and architecture of Heceta Head Lighthouse and its keepers’ quarters, which is going to be the setting of my new book.  So that made my day.

 After several hours in that library, I decided to check out Portland’s streetcar and see where it went, since I had the all-day pass, which includes the streetcar and light rail as well as the bus.  The streetcar went to northwest Portland and the trendy shopping district on NW 23rd.  I hadn’t been there in years, and it was only a couple of blocks from the end of the line to the New Renaissance Bookshop, another favorite bookstore.  So I strolled there and browsed for a bit, but it was getting late and I was tired, so I wound my way back to the hostel via streetcar and bus, and collapsed in a heap on my second evening on the road.

Two weeks ago today

Was the beginning of my annual road trip.  This one wasn’t long, unfortunately, nor was I ever more than a day’s drive from home, so I wonder if it really even counts.  But I had my reasons, first of which was that I was doing research for the new novel, which is set on the Oregon coast, and second of which is that I’m sort of saving up for another long trip in a year or two, I hope, so this trip was shorter than normal.

The morning mostly consisted of a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Portland, Oregon, in the pouring rain.  This late in the spring downpours of that duration aren’t usual, but it could have been worse.  It could have been hailing (our hail is more properly called graupel — pea-sized blobs of slushy ice — not real solid-ice hail with rings if you slice it open), or it could have been booming and crashing.  Spring is, after all, when we get our rare thundershowers.  So my windshield wipers got a workout.  No big deal.  If I let the rain stop me from doing things in this part of the world, I wouldn’t do much, that’s for sure.

I arrived in Portland in the late morning and made my pilgrimage to Fabric Depot, which is one of Portland’s stores on steroids and the biggest fabric store in the U.S.  Over 1.5 acres, or so their website says (they’re housed in an old Fred Meyer, which is the local answer to Target or Walmart).  This was by no means my first visit there — I usually make a Portland run at least once a year to hit this store and Powells (the other store on steroids, about which more in a minute) — and I usually time it to hit one of their sales.  Which I did this time.   I won’t go on about it anymore lest I start sounding like a commercial, but I will say just two more words.  Quilter heaven.

In the afternoon I hit my other store on steroids, the above-mentioned Powells, which is another biggest-of-its-kind store in the country.  To say that Powells sells books is to say that Microsoft has this little operating system.  Their main location, in downtown Portland, is a full city block and four stories tall.  They hand you maps at the door, in lieu of breadcrumbs, I suppose.  The rooms are color-coded as well.  I wonder how many customers they lost before they started doing those two things.  They sell new and used books, side-by-side on the shelves.  I’ve never been to any other bookstore that does that, although I’m sure there are some out there.  At any rate, I spent most of the afternoon there.

I spent the night at the Hawthorne Hostel in southeast Portland.  I like hostels, although they’re few and far between in this neck of the woods.  This one is in an old Craftsman-style bungalow with a great many “green” updates.  Part of the roof, for instance, is covered with growing plants, and they have a cistern, which runs the non-drinking water water things like toilets.  A lot of hostels are run by what my father used to call “those hippies.”  I rather like it.  It makes for a nifty ambiance.  And it was right on a bus line that ran straight to downtown, so I didn’t have to fight traffic the next day.

I didn’t take any pictures this first day, nor did I two weeks ago tomorrow, which I mostly spent at the Oregon Historical Society Museum library, and exploring downtown Portland.  I promise you that starting with two weeks ago day after tomorrow, I took more than enough photos to make up for it.  Really.