This post will be less about what we explored and saw and more about time with friends, as we had the pleasure of staying with two sets of friends while we were in Oregon and Washington; Margerie and her husband, Mathew, in Vancouver, and David, Allison, and their 12-year-old daughter, Shaila, in Northeast Portland. Margerie and I used to work together at SEIU when I first moved to Sacramento back in 2010; in fact, she was one of my first new connections in Sac and helped orient me to the area in her friendly, helpful, welcoming way, eager to share what she’s experienced personally and make recommendations accordingly (which actually, was similar to what we were lucky to experience visiting her in Vancouver)! David and Aaron were in the same grad school program at UC Berkeley and have stayed friends since. We attended David and Allison’s wedding several years ago when I personally first met them both and we’ve been fortunate to be able to spend more time with them recently when they visited California (we met up with them and their daughter for the first time in Oakland a few months ago) and now in Northeast Portland in their home.
Up until this point in our travels, we had primarily interacted with one another exclusively (which was a couple of weeks on the road into our road trip). It’s not that we got tired of one another, but in every day life, we look forward to doing things both together and separately (solo or with friends). We acknowledge that we both enjoy how that works and that both time together and apart are important and healthy for us as individuals and a happily married couple. While on the road, it’s more challenging to get that needed time apart. We were both looking forward to having interactions with friends to change up our dynamic and feel refreshed and ready to be back on the road with each other again in a few days.
Before meeting up with Margerie and Mathew at their place after their workday, we bought some fresh blueberries from a local stand off of the side of the road near a park we walked around (we navigated here randomly to avoid the freeway traffic due to an accident) while finalizing our plan for happy hour in Downtown Portland. It was a bit too hot to walk to happy hour from there, so we drove and got a spot close to our selected venue, Bartini. We sat outside and enjoyed a martini each and shared 6 small plates for a total of only $30 (plus tip)! What a deal (and actually, we agree it was our best happy hour deal of our time in both Portland and Seattle)!
After getting through normal rush hour traffic from Portland to Vancouver, we got situated at Margerie’s and Mathew’s place and headed back out to Portland for a local food pod experience! They treated us to a family-style plethora of food truck specialties and we dined in the midst of a Portlander outdoor dining gathering. Our bellies were so full and we enjoyed hanging out and catching up with our gracious hosts! This was Aaron’s first time meeting Margerie and Mathew after Margerie and Aaron had heard about one another from me for years, and Aaron and Mathew really seemed to hit it off!
The next morning, we borrowed their bikes to ride along the Columbia River through part of Downtown Vancouver to Fort Vancouver and back to their place. The views of the Columbia River while riding were my favorite part of the ride!
After taking our time getting cleaned up and packed, we hung out at a nearby Margerie recommendation, Savona Coffee House, to decide upon our game plan for the rest of the afternoon, utilizing the free WIFI. We headed back to Downtown Portland for happy hour at Imperial (where we got 2 appetizers for $10!) and a walk to pass the time (again, it was a pretty warm day for Portland!) before happy hour at Sauce Box started at 4:30 p.m. Aaron had found their happy hour specials the day prior and they featured some sushi, so of course, we (mostly I) had hyped it up and had high expectations. Unfortunately, we were (especially I was) disappointed because their sushi specials were no longer available and we ended up with fried food (which I pretty much loathe after a bite or two); since when are spring rolls not fresh but rather fried egg rolls instead? The description didn’t say anything about being fried either. We had also ordered potstickers, which in my experience, are typically steamed, which came out fried (again, without specifying they would be in the description on the menu). I felt conflicted about eating them because we had paid for them, but I really didn’t want to. So I ate one spring roll and two potstickers and focused on enjoying our noodle dish instead.
We met up with David and Allison at their house in Northeast Portland and chatted before Shaila came home. We ate dinner at a local spot they like which was walkable from their place. We enjoyed getting a feel for their neighborhood and loved that it was so walkable. Afterwards, after Shaila went to bed, we stayed up chatting in their living room until we all felt tired and ready for bed. The next morning, we had breakfast and hung out with Allison after David went to work and Shaila went to summer school. We went to Allison’s favorite local coffee and pie spot, Random Order, which was walkable, and then hit the road to drive to Seattle (where Allison has lived and spent a lot of time, so she helped orient us and gave us a rundown of her suggested highlights to check out in our limited time there). Thank you, David & Allison, for hosting us, and for all of the fresh produce you grew in your own yard to take with us and enjoy in our travels (we ate the whole bag of cherry tomatoes in the car that day, lol)! Shout out about the Asian pears, which I LOVE and was so excited to enjoy!
After a highlight happy hour at Momiji (thank you, Allison, for this awesome recommendation!), which totally made up for the disappointment we experienced at Sauce Box the afternoon prior and was an eating highlight of our trip so far, we sweat bullets walking to Pike Place Market (which was toward the end of the day and there wasn’t much to see) and walking up and down the street we were on to find another happy hour special that ended at 7 p.m. Even though the sweat was pouring, we welcomed the active walk after our afternoon drive in the car. We were unsuccessful in finding what we were looking for, so we eventually called it and walked in a nearby park before heading back over to our AirBnB accommodation for the night, which was in a nearby condo with a private room and shared bathroom.
Joe, our host, was a very nice, interesting guy. He and his girlfriend recently moved from Alaska to Seattle and she’s a flight attendant, so he’s often solo on the weekends. He recently started renting on AirBnB as an opportunity to meet new people. He’s actually the first AirBnB host we’ve stayed with that expressed interest in hanging out with us. We welcomed it as a part of our travel experience, which is to get to know locals whenever we have the opportunity, which makes for a unique experience. I don’t believe I’d ever met and gotten to know someone from Alaska before. I was recovering from a mild sore throat, so I did feel tired pretty early. But we enjoyed talking with and getting to know Joe and look forward to staying in touch!
Before driving the 4 hour-ish route to Spokane the next day to kick off heading east across the country, we slept in a bit and after packing up, walked along the Alki Trail, which kept us occupied for a couple of hours, and enjoyed lunch at Ampersand Cafe near where we had parked our car. Whenever possible on a day we’re going to be or have been in the car primarily, we crave and seek out the opportunity to walk to stretch our legs and see something local to the area we’re in. The Alki Trail is great for bikers, walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, strolling with doggies, etc. and all were seen on our walk. We enjoyed observing the local scene as people BBQed and hung out in the park, played beach volleyball and in the water, kayaked, and more!
What we love about staying with friends and family while visiting an area is that we get a hands-on, unique perspective into what their lives are like there as locals. We get an inside peek into how they live their lives regularly, which is so different than what the touristy things are to do in an area that may never scratch the surface of what we get to see behind the scenes otherwise. We get to see a place through their eyes and experience what they choose to share with us based on what they like. If we don’t know someone in a place we visit, we often find ourselves wanting to just walk around and take in everything around us, not necessarily seeking out points of interest that are top sights to see (which many have reason to be popular, but sometimes we find are too crowded to be enjoyable, and where is the real enjoyment in visiting somewhere to check the box and take the typical, sought-after, “perfect” photos to show you were there — when often, reality is that it’s impossible to get a photo without other people or obstructions in it, but for me, as I like to say when this happens, “That’s real life!”).
This wraps up our Coastal and Portland/Seattle part of our road trip. Next, we embark upon the next part of our road trip journey where we travel east to Illinois, to visit more of our friends, within less than a week’s time!
Until next time,