So, I left San Francisco with the feeling of being on top of the world. While there, I had forged not so much a collection of specific memories as one overarching impression that there was something intangible in the light and sounds and smells of the city that I couldn't help but start to miss long before I was even back on the freeway. I think, on some level, I had fallen in love and still had the vague scent of her deeply trapped in my clothing and skin. It was going to be a long trip northward.
The drive eventually had me surrounded on all sides by long, rolling hills of pines, every shade of green.
I stopped at Lake Shasta in northern Cali to swim and bathe for a while as I hadn't gotten a chance that morning. It's difficult for me to conceptualize scenery more picturesque than that from the shore of the lake.
I couldn't help but imagine that the rest of my trip would easily be as dreamlike as my last week had been. Why wouldn't it? How couldn't it? Things had gone so seamlessly thus far that I conjured up these images of myself single-handedly demolishing any potential future roadblocks and effortlessly brushing past any person or situation that might hamper my adventure like some wild, lanky grizzly bear.
Then Portland happened.
Let me preface this by saying that I didn't hate the city itself, but holymotherfuckshitballs, the traffic and congestion is easily the worst I've ever seen in my life. I'm convinced that it's the only American city that's decided to not only have its roads designed by catatonic, down-syndromed Michelle Bachman lookalikes, but that it's required that half the population is in a similar unsound state of mind (and face). Why, oh WHY, do bicyclists have to ride their bikes down the center of the road, or use an entire lane of traffic for their own sadistic, environmentally sympathetic whims?
My first day had me so overwhelmed in frustration that, by the end of it, I decided I immediately needed a break and so I drove west toward the coast to fall asleep near the beach. I'm happy to report that God had a sense of humor through adding just a bit more spice to my melodramatic overreaction by making certain that there was a light rainstorm hitting the coastline just then and that I pulled up to the ocean's edge just as midnight rolled around. Really, all that was missing was an eyepatch-wearing, long-lost evil twin holding the map to the Pugh family's hidden goldmine.
After sleeping and calming down, I spent my next day meandering through the outskirts of the city and eventually into a state park that is split by the Willamette River. Wandering aimlessly long enough into the river, onto an island and through the brush revealed exactly what I needed to enjoy my second day in Portland after such a disappointing first: a very hidden, very nude beach. Jackpot.
After spending a warm evening sunbathing with my ever present array of homespun cocktails, I decided that I had been too hard on poor Portland. The people weren't ALL awful monsters, and it's not as though I was in a rush to get anywhere in particular, so whether or not the traffic was continually cataclysmic shouldn't be an issue, right?
And then it was time for me to start driving again....Fuck...FU-Gah! Ahhh! BLEERGGHH!! MOTHERFUCK!!! GODDAMN SHITSTORMRANDYNEWMANASSWIPE!!!
Yeah, no. Traffic is disgusting. Ruining my entire day isn't going to difficult for it.
I figured another day and a half tops before I have to move on. The city was going skullfuck my sanity until I broke free from its grasp.
What was left? Powell's City of Books, the largest bookstore in the world, for one. It certainly gave you the feeling of being the most intellectually insignificant piece of flesh walking the earth, anyway. Three floors, encompassing an entire city block and books lining the shelves from the floor to the warehouse-high ceiling. Holy. Shit. It was like walking into the library at Hogwarts. I found and bought a couple books while there and left rendered totally speechless by the massive amount of information that must have lived inside this colossal coliseum.
What else? Well, I definitely stumbled into what is apparently a well known secret to Portlandians (Portlanders? Portlandites? Port-o-Pots?) known as Voodoo Doughnuts. I cannot accurately express the happiness that shot through me following my first bite into a tiny doughnut voodoo doll.
Finally, though, I decided it was time to move on, and move on two days early at that. Portland wasn't for me in the long run.
Here's hoping Seattle's legendary rain can wash the hipster smell from my shirt.