Erin and I are in Portland for the week. People keep asking if we came here to visit friends or something, but the truth is that I like bikes and heard it was a cool city, and Erin agreed to indulge me and come here for our vacation.

Thanks to VRBO, we’re staying in an apartment in the Alphabet District. We haven’t seen a ton of the city yet: we’ve only been here since Saturday evening, and spent all day yesterday visiting an old friend of hers down in Eugene (and driving back and forth, of course). We’ve really only seen part of northwest at this point, and it seems that there’s a lot more city east of the river. The only thing we’ve got planned is a bike tour, so we’ll have a few days to explore.

In the time we’ve been here, I’ve determined a few things:

  • Most Portlanders drive Subarus with car-top carriers on the roof, but I can’t figure out what everyone is transporting. If they don’t have the car-top carrier, they have a bike or two on the back of the car. Sometimes, they have both.
  • I’ve seen more VW busses today than in the previous decade. Same goes for old Beetles.
  • Traffic is really light. I keep being surprised by how few cars are around.
  • People are really polite. Drivers actually stop at those pedestrian crosswalks that don’t have a stop sign. You never see that in DC, and it’s happened a few times here.
  • There are a ton of bikes. I knew before coming here that Portland is a city of bikers, but man: you really do see bikes constantly, and there are bike lanes on almost every road (including major roads where I really didn’t expect to see them).
  • It’s safe here. I walked about a mile and a half back from dropping off the rental car at 10:30 last night, and passed at least three women walking alone with headphones. There weren’t any groups of teenagers wandering around being obnoxious. Hell, I even passed a small park with benches that didn’t have armrests, and didn’t see any homeless people there.
  • Powell’s is huge. We just ambled around the first floor a bit, and stopped into the second building to get a copy of Getting Started with Arduino, since I need a hobby and I’ve always wanted to learn about electronics. Chances are good I’ll wind up back there before the week is out, but Erin has less interest than I do in hanging out in a book store.
  • I’ve had that Dream of the 90’s song from the opening sequence of Portlandia stuck in my head ever since we got here.

On the whole, I like this city, but I don’t feel like I really have my head around it in the least. Like I said, we’ve really only seen a small section of it, and I have no idea what it’s like in neighborhoods in other areas of the city. I hope that our exploring gives us a better sense of the rest of the city, because right now, it’s like we haven’t punched through the sort of stereotype veneer (if that makes any sense at all).