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Published: August 18th 2012
The Oregon Trail
The Rowena Loops
8th August ’12 Spokane to Portland
So today it’s 350 miles to go, it was hot and for the first chunk of the journey we just drove and drove through flat, yellow prairie. When we reached the Columbia River the scenery still wasn’t much better and it was really windy.
We pulled off at a service area in the middle of nowhere, which had eating places and petrol stations. As we were leaving I spotted a very unusual character on the corner of the junction holding a sign, at first I thought he must be hitching as he was staring at every car or truck really hard. As we got closer I could read the sign properly and despite what I first thought it said it wasn’t swearing but just said SMILE. So I gave him a wave and a cheesy grin and he smiled back and blew me a kiss. Well how strange, but it did cheer me up!
I can’t remember how much further on we went before we turned off the highway and began to follow the original Oregon Trail through the Columbia River Gorge. All I can say is that those original pioneers in
their wagon trains coming over all that prairie must have thought they had arrived in paradise when they got here. Everywhere was lush and green, with woodlands and waterfalls and the river flowing through the valley.
The road was yet another engineering feat as it spiralled round and round up and over a mountain – this part was known as the Rowena Loops, then carried on twisting and turning up along the side of the valley.
We stopped to look at the various waterfalls dotted along the way, some close to the road and others a bit of a hike. The Multnomah Falls were beautiful, a huge cascade of water dropping from the top of the gorge down into a pool and out again down in another fall into another pool. There was an elegant arch bridge high up across the gorge which gave the whole place a really romantic air. We hiked up to this bridge to get a closer view of the top waterfall and everyone below looked tiny.
After following the Oregon Trail for quite a long way we turned down a side road and joined back up with the highway on the valley
floor. Soon we were at the outskirts of Portland and our Travelodge for the next 2 nights.
9th Aug ’12 Portland
Slept in today and certainly needed it. After checking with the man on the desk at the motel we discovered that driving and parking in Portland would be a nightmare. However the good news was there is a park and ride not far away from here. So we drove to it, parked and caught the train into the city.
We had bought all day passes which meant that we could use any of the trains and buses all for $3.50, not bad at all.
Howard suggested we rode right through the city and up to the Washington Park which was the furthest point the tickets covered. It took about 45 minutes to get there but we had great views of the city and picked up ideas of places to go back to and visit.
When we got out at the Park Station we were slightly overwhelmed by the size of the park and looking at the park plan board just re-inforced this. 130 acres and Howard’s eyes lit up!
There was a bus
waiting by the station (and my eyes lit up!!) and as we didn’t want to see the zoo we got on and got off again when we arrived at the Rose Gardens, which is what Portland is famous for.
As Howard had picked this destination I was again puzzled by his apparent growing interest in flora and fauna. This was soon dispelled as he marched through the roses without really looking at them. I have to say it was really pretty and I sniffed lots of them and took pictures, mainly for my Mum’s benefit – you would really love it here!
We found another map and figured out how to walk to the next area which I wanted to see. There was a fountain which unfortunately didn’t have any water and a statue. This was of Sagajawea, the only woman in the Lewis and Clark expedition and in honour of the Pioneer Mother of Old Oregon.
There was also a memorial to Lewis and Clark. They led the expediton of 31 men, 1 woman and a baby, between May 1804 until September 1806, searching for a water route from the Midwest to the shores of the
Pacific Ocean and called themselves the Corps of Discovery and they succeeded in their quest.
We then wandered down the hill past all the fabulous houses that were within the park grounds as well as those leading up to it – there certainly must be some major money in this area!
Eventually we reached a train station and caught one back to Pioneer Square, where we visited the information centre and picked up a map. Wandering the streets a young lad stopped us and asked us to listen to his CD of his own music (which he was selling). He was a really nice lad and we chatted about music, unfortunately his music was hip hop. So although it was very good, if you like that kind of thing, it wasn’t for us he just wished us well and us him and we carried on.
We walked through the Old Town and the shame was the number of empty buildings and it was a similar thing in China Town. About 4 we called a halt and caught the train back to the Gresham Park and Ride.
The journey back was ‘entertaining’, the train was very full
The Oregon Trail
and we were surrounded by about 6 co-workers all chatting away, then at one station all hell broke loose! A young mother with a pushchair opened the train doors for a middle aged man in a wheelchair and he just started screaming at her, telling her not to interfere and to read the f****** signs. She said she was only trying to help, he then backed up and charged into the carriage telling her to f off, she then gave him a mouthful and lots of colourful new American expressions were learnt! The most popular saying however seems to be ‘eat shit and die’.
The office workers and other passengers were all laughing and rolling their eyes, one asked us if it was our first time on the train and then said ‘this is normal for this time’!
When the young mum got off she said to the wheelchair man ‘I hope you have a better day’ which just set him off again effing and blinding at her, she stood on the platform and shouted in through the door exactly what she thought of him and what he should do with himself. After a few kiss my arses
the doors shut and off we went, made British Rail seem positively tame!
Well the journey back certainly passed a lot quicker than the one going!!
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