Before an evening of beaver-filled entertainment, I thought I would join the healthy eaters on the steps in front of the town hall and munch my way through a ‘super burrito’ from one of the vendors there. ‘Authentic’ Mexican food according to his sign, despite being in Oregon and served up by a bloke that sounded like he came from New Joisey, so convinced by his blatantly false advertising I grab one and sit down to eat. And that’s when things started to get very strange. I’m minding my own business when a woman approaches me and says “Hello”. “Mppphhhhhh”, I replied, as I had a gob full of burrito at the time and was trying not to dribble it down my chin. And then the questioning began. “Is that good, where did you get it, how much did it cost, I spent all my money on a smoothie earlier and have only got fifty cents left, are you full yet, can I have the rest of it?”, all without taking a breath. “Mppphhhhhh off!”, I replied. My direct approach didn’t quite work though, because the charm school truant decides to start another conversation with “Why do you shave your head, is your hair falling out?”. After lying through my teeth and telling her that my hair isn’t falling out, I just cut it short because I like it that way, she then goes off in great detail about how her hair started falling out years ago, but she started eating kelp and it grew back again. I’m not sure if she was referring to the birds nest perched on her head, or the ‘Brazilian’ look she had going on her chin, but thought it best not to pursue the subject. And then, to cap it all, she tells me that I have a fake accent, that I’m American, and why am I putting on a pretend Australian accent. Peasant! I quickly scoffed the rest of the burrito (I didn’t dare offer her any; I don’t think she would have stopped at the food and would likely have taken my entire arm off) and made my escape.

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Oregon

Continuing the tour of baseball teams named after slang reproductive organs, the follow-up to the Modesto Nuts is tonight’s Portland Beavers. As a special tribute to my arrival, they had created a bronze image of me and placed it outside the stadium. Nice touch!

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Oregon

With plenty of warmth radiating from my newly sunburned lobster arms (claws?), I took up my cheap seat in PGE Park. Although it’s a purpose built baseball stadium, it has been expanded over the years and is also used for football and concerts. If I stayed until next week, I could watch Bryan Adams and Def Leppard in concert. Hurrah! Because of this expansion, and the fact that there were only a couple of hundred people inside to watch the game, the atmosphere inside the cavernous stadium was pretty sterile. The Beavers are a Triple-A team (one level below the majors), and are meant to be pretty serious (they even had somebody other than a couple of players carry the drinks cooler to the dugout!), but it seems that baseball in Portland isn’t a particularly big draw. The team even has ‘Alcohol Monitors’ wandering around the stands. Due to the general lack of rowdiness, I can only assume that they were encouraging people to consume more.

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Oregon

There were a few between-innings events (a small child chasing a beaver mascot around the bases, and two people putting baseballs – bizarre!), but the best entertainment was to be found in the manual scoreboard. This was a huge wooden structure in centre field operated by a couple of teenagers. And in order for the scores to be visible from the other side of the stadium, the numbers that they were moving around needed to be around five feet high. After each pitch they would scurry around changing the number of balls and strikes, and the process of removing the old number, finding the new number and sticking it on the board usually took them about thirty seconds. The comedy began when a particularly fast-working pitcher was only taking twenty seconds between pitches. So no sooner was the scoreboard up to date with balls and strikes from the previous pitch, it was immediately out of date again and more frantic scurrying ensued. And if a run was scored or an out was recorded, they had half a dozen numbers to change and were really up against it. After half a dozen innings I wandered around to the back of the scoreboard to see a pair of exhausted operators slumped over a big pile of numbers, finally admitting defeat and just refreshing the score after every inning.

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Oregon

Towards the end of the game there was the worrying sight (worrying even by my standards!) of the mascot, a seven foot tall beaver, naturally, what can only be described as ‘riding’ a stuffed animal of some description. It could have been a dog or maybe a wolf, I’m not sure. Or it may have been a live animal and was playing dead. I know that if I was being ‘ridden’ by a seven foot tall beaver then I would do exactly that and hope the lack of struggling would compel him to leave me alone.

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Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The states of Oregon and Washington are separated by a huge gorge, through which runs the Columbia River. Not willing to risk another approach from the mad burrito-eating monster in Portland, I thought I would head out into the wilderness for some clean air and healthy outdoor activity. After the morning’s Dream Machine shower which, in case you’re keeping up with my ablutions, was in a gas station, I hit the road once again.

The gorge starts immediately as you leave Portland, so you can live and work in the city but still have the hiking, boating and gorgeous scenery less than half an hour away. The ‘gorge loop’ takes you eighty miles east through Oregon, over a bridge into Washington, and then eighty miles west so you end up in Vancouver (Vancouver in Washington, not Vancouver in Canada which is a few hundred miles north. All very confusing for a Limey!). Anyway, you set out on the main road out of Portland, and every few miles you can stop at any one of around sixty areas of interest. I tried the first few where all you do is park up, get out, trot up to a waterfall, take a picture of it, pester another tourist to take a picture of you next to it, take a picture of them, then get back in the car and drive off to the next spot. Easy, I could do this touristy thing for a living!

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Oregon

So at the third or fourth waterfall, I decide to get a bit cocky and try a bit of hiking. Yes, hiking. Against all my better judgement , and ignoring just how much I complained last year in the Himalayas, I strapped on my trusty hiking boots and set off on the ‘not strenuous’ mile long loop. There were a few uphill bits but overall it wasn’t too bad, and I only pulled over to the side of the trail a couple of times to let groups of eighty year olds pass me. Then things started getting out of hand. After a short rest to get my breath back and cough up some spare lung tissue, I went for the ‘strenuous’ loop around a different set of waterfalls. After a few minutes struggling up this particular trail I knew I was out of my depth when I heard the familiar ‘click, click, click’ of walkers with metal sticks. These people must be professionals! And the two groups that passed me on the last trail wouldn’t have made it as far as this; the stick-wielders were (probably) under seventy. Still, I persevered and finally made it to the viewpoint, where there is a bronze plaque. I expected it to say something about the Lewis and Clark expedition across America and how they wrote about this as a place of special interest. Nope. The plaque said “In memory of Glenn W. Replogle, January 27 1974 – April 9 1988. He fell from a cliff east of Horsetail Falls”. Blimey! Never mind describing the hike as “strenuous”, it should say “strenuous and possibly fatal”.

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Oregon

The rest of the gorge on the Oregon side is pretty much the same thing, with more waterfalls, more hiking (but not for me!), more viewpoints, etc. On the Washington side there are fewer waterfalls and hiking, but a huge number of salmon breeding grounds. Every couple of miles there is a small town where you can go and look at the salmon spawning, swimming around, and generally enjoying life. And if you’re feeling peckish and you like the look of a particular fishy, you can just let the owners know and they will pluck it out of the water, cook it up, throw a sprig of parsley onto it, and present it to you with a glass of chilled wine. Nice!

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Portland, Oregon

The first thing that strikes you about Portland is that everyone seems to be so fit. Most people are jogging along the waterfront in their lunchtime, or enjoying a healthy salad in one of the many parks in the city centre. I don’t imagine that the English tradition of a few pints and sausage sandwich at lunchtime before weaving your way back to the office for a sleep is ever going to catch on in Portland. Like every city. Portland also has it’s fair share of weirdoes (hey hippies, the 60s is over), Sid Vicious wannabes (the vast majority of who were but a glint in the milkman’s eye when he died), and dropouts, but even the homeless smile at you when you don’t give them any cash.

Fresh from an early morning Dream Machine shower in the parking lot of McDonalds, I set out to explore the city. To reduce traffic congestion, they provide free transportation around the city, so you can just hop on a bus, train or tram whenever you like. Of course it helps if you have a clue where you’re going, but after a few attempts you eventually get the hang of it. Another couple of state-wide bonus features is that there’s no hidden sales tax like there is in California, and there are also no self-serve gas stations. You just pull up to the pump, your little helper rushes out from the shop and fills your car up while you sit there like royalty, then you pay them and drive off again. Excellent! Of course nothing is for nothing so there has to be a downside, and it appears that the downside is a complete lack of public toilets in Portland. Being America you can easily sneak into one of the million fast food places that are available, but it seems strange that an entire city would have nowhere to go. Don’t these people ever drink?

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Oregon
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