Portland; into 2007

Tuesday 2nd January
Well I'm still trying to catch up a bit after a fun, but busy weekend away in Portland for New Year's. My friend Jen flew out from Boston to visit for the holidays, so after a quiet christmas in Eugene, we headed up to the bright lights of the big city for the long weekend. We had booked a rental car, but when we went to pick it up we were told we had been upgraded, and so ended up wtih this HUGE station wagon Dodge Magnum, er, thing. Quite a kind of low slung ghetto vehicle (tinted windows an' all!); I felt like we needed to turn the base up and cruise slowly through town! But whatever, it was wheels for the trip, and so on Saturday morning we headed West from Eugene, out to Florence and the coast. Here we were treated to a little bit of sunshine and a gorgeous beach to walk on. I have never seen so much driftwood - massive logs (some definitely redwood), and refreshingly no litter. After our stroll we headed north up the very scenic route 101 coast road, which had tremendous views over the ocean. We paused for a short bike ride (on a couple of prototype Bike Fridays I'd brought along) and then lunch, before heading inland for Portland.

Jen had booked us a cosy B&B in the northeast of the city, so after checking in we went for a look around. We were very close to the Lloyd centre, which is one of the oldest and largest malls in the country. When we walked in, my comment to Jen was that here in mall-land we could be anywhere in America - until I noticed the ice-rink opening out below us! Yes indeed, an ice-rink in the middle of the shopping mall, most unexpected. So, having discovered probably the only such equiped mall it would be rude not to try it out, right? Now, I haven't been on ice-skates in about 15 years, so was very pleased to manage not to fall over. I actually improved quite a lot during our stint going round in cicles. Jen however, was going backwards and doing spins by the end; apparently growing up in New Hampshire and rollerblading since helps....

New Year's Eve dawned amazingly bright and sunny. Breakfast was a socialable, gastronomic affair, with three gourmet courses served to all eight guests round one table. Our fellow B&Bers were all from seattle - one family with two talented and precocious children, and another couple. The conversation continued for some time, but I was iching to get out in the sun, so we took our leave, unfolded the bikes and headed out. Portland has a good network of bikepaths, and we found our way across town to Washington park where the rose garden was flooded with sunshine, making the freezing temperatures feel really quite tempearate. I took in a couple of hilly laps of the park whilst Jen relaxed in the gardens, before we headed into town to explore a little more. Mid-afternoon we went back for a rest and to change for dinner. A long walk found us a nice restaurant for out final meal of 2006; another long walk got us back into the town centre to see what was going on. Yes, we could have used the free public transport, but it was a nice (albeit chilly) evening and we had plenty of time! We started seeing people with numbers on, and then roads closed, and finally discovered that there was a 5km run/walk at midnight! Amazingly, some people were even taking this seriously, wearing full running kit and doing long warm ups. Takes all sorts I guess. After a pleasent glass of wine (for Jen) and hot chocolate (for me) in the oppulent surroundings of the theatre foyer we decided that we really didn't need to stay in town for another hour, since there didn't really seem to be all that much special taking place. So new year for us was in a deserted street as we walked back, just relying on my watch being accurate!

Breakfast was a bit later the following morning, but similarly impressive. And the year kicked off with heavy rain. After packing up and checking out we drove into the city centre and visited Powells, which is the world's largest independent bookstore, taking up a whole city block. We spent a good while exploring in there, before walking round a bit more; soon enough it was time to head to the airport for Jen to fly home. Then I headed south back to Eugene, but not before a stop off to visit with John Climaldi, a cyclist and recumbent rider who had contacted me through having been a reader of this humble website for a few years. John rides for team Bacchetta, and had very kindly offered to loan me a CarbonAero bike to try out - I duly brought it back and am awaiting a dry day to see what it rides like.