Ahh, Portland. The current home of my friend Tara, whom I'd first met while we were teaching in Japan and then roomed with for two years in St. Paul. Originally, the plan was for another friend from Japan to come down from Vancouver and have a 10-year reunion (our "Japanniversary," if you will). However, travel bookings didn't quite work out, so it was just the two of us.
Since I was staying with Tara, part of our weekend involved yet another mini-reunion. Namely, I was reunited with her cat, who used to delight in hiding beneath my bed, waiting until I dropped off to sleep, and then exploding in a ball of deranged fur. Although she'd slowed down a bit in the last seven years, she now had a feline friend as a partner in crime. Long story short, one morning I woke at 6 a.m. to see two cats leaping at my face. I mean literally mid-air, flying toward my head. I screamed, they screeched, and I knew I was home.
Portland was probably the most surprising city on my trip, mainly because I'd never associated it with beaches and surfers. I was prepared for the laid-back hippie vibe, even for the fact that everyone who's anyone has a dog. I wasn't prepared for the rugged natural beauty. We checked out Bridal Veil Falls and Multnomah Falls at the Columbia River Gorge on Friday afternoon, then hit the coast all day Saturday, including Oswald West State Park and Ecola State Park. And we topped off our time in the sun and sand with possibly the best chicken tikka masala I've ever had.
Just when I was starting to think I could go granola pretty fast, it started raining. Yes, while gallivanting around the Northwest, I'd been blessed with some of the nicest weather you could ask for. That's when reality set in. It didn't completely dampen our spirits as we stopped by the Saturday Market (on a Sunday), and met a guy selling beautiful photos who was originally from Apple Valley, MN. It also didn't ruin a brief trip to Powell's Books, the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. When we stepped in the front door, Tara said, "Okay, the first thing we'll need to do is get you a map." And I knew I was home.
But, unfortunately, the sweet siren song of "All aboard!" was calling me onward. (By the way, nobody actually yells that at train stations, although it would be fantastic if they did). So I bid adieu to Oregon, having gained a secret desire to one day buy a vacation home in Cannon Beach, a picturesque little ocean-side town that sells saltwater taffy and has a store devoted entirely to kites. Because, really, what more do you need?