We thought we were going to love Portland. And we did. But we also didn’t. There were days we were enamored with our surroundings and others, well, we just weren’t feeling it. And mixed in with all that, we had an unexpected expense that caused our yearly budget to officially throw up the white flag and light itself on fire.

Let’s start with the good…

The Japanese Garden

If you tell anyone who’s been to Portland that you’re heading to Portland, they will tell you that you have to visit the Portland Japanese Garden. ‘They’ are not wrong. The garden, which dates back to 1967, covers twelve acres of forest in the middle of the city. It is an oasis of peace and calm in the middle of an ever expanding and endlessly energetic modern city.

The flat garden at the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon
Admit it: staring at this makes you feel calm, right?

The property has been named the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, and there are facilities designated for all kinds of education programs, artistic endeavors, and special cultural events.

The Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center at the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon
The Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center – a space for educational and artistic programs at the Garden.

As luck would have it, we happened to show up just as a free tour was leaving the entrance. We jumped in and were so thankful for this bit of good timing. Walking around with a highly knowledgeable interpreter turned this visit from an opportunity to see some beautiful scenery into a truly immersive experience where we learned the whys behind each object in the garden.

The Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon

And that’s the thing about authentic Japanese gardens: everything you see – every thing – is there for a reason. There are no mistakes, there are no fillers, nothing is randomly placed in a spot because it happens to fit. Everything is intentional and thoughtful and meaningful, and walking around with someone who can show you what to look for and explain what you’re seeing, will make the entire experience so much richer.

Example: Notice the surface of the pathway on either side of this structure.

It’s smooth as you walk up to it and smooth on the other side of it, but under the structure itself, the designer placed uneven stones. Why? Because he wanted visitors to slow down while walking through this area and really look around. The interruption in the surface of the pathway forces visitors to pay attention to where they’re walking (so they don’t trip on the stones) and notice their surroundings. Neat, eh?

Tours are given twice a day during the summer and once a day the rest of the year. If you can make it happen, I promise, you won’t be sorry.

Bonus spot: Just outside the Japanese Gardens is the city’s free-to-visit International Rose Test Garden. Home to over 10,000 rose bushes of 600 plus varieties, roses are sent here from all over the world to see which varietals work best. We were there at the tail end of the season, but were greeted with row after row of colorful, unique, fragrant roses.

Food and Sweets

We found some stellar stuff while we were in town. “Voodoo Donuts,” you ask? No. Not there. Not because we didn’t want to try it, but because there are only so many ways you can crush your dietary good intentions and we chose to focus first on ice cream, specifically Salt & Straw, the holy-mother-of-god-this-is-delicious ice cream shop that you can find in several locations around the city.

The menu at Salt and Straw in Portland, Oregon
Does some of this stuff sound weird? Yes. Is all of it delicious? Also yes.

The cool thing about Salt & Straw, beyond the fact that it’s the best ice cream you’ll ever taste, is when you get up to the counter, you can try as many samples as you want. You can honest-to-god just sit there and make a day of sampling ice cream. It’s the most gluttonously wonderful thing we’ve ever come across.

On our first visit (shut up, don’t judge), we each tried two or three samples before settling on our two scoop cups.

On our second visit, we didn’t have time to stand in line waiting for everyone to try their samples, so we just grabbed a pint of pre-packaged ice cream from the freezer and ate it on our walk.

Seriously. We ate a whole pint of salted caramel ice cream while walking around Portland.

Speaking of which, don’t think for a second that we skipped donuts entirely. Don’t be ridiculous. We totally went and got donuts; they were just from an alternative place recommended to us by our source for all things Portland, our friend, Celena. She suggested Blue Star Donuts and she never leads us wrong, so off we went to this uber popular spot for a sampling of some of their selections.

We had several other good meals, but our overall favorite find was Pok Pok Noi, a teeny tiny little Thai place with a very limited menu of spicy and flavorful items:

Wings at Pok Pok Noi
Chicken wings at Pok Pok Noi….

Neighborhoods and City Goodness

Portland is a much bigger city than we realized comprised of many distinct neighborhoods.  We walked through some that were full of houses you’d swear were occupied by retired serial killers, and others that could have been in any wealthy suburb. There are hippie neighborhoods and hipster neighborhoods, and downtown high rise neighborhoods and all the things in between. It’s a fun city to just wander around and see what you find.

Street Art on Alberta Street in Portland

There are tons of beautiful urban parks in town, there are numerous photogenic bridges that carry traffic (so much traffic) over the Willamette River, there is the famous Powell’s Bookstore – a city block sized ode to the written word, and there are all kinds of interesting markets, murals, food carts, and shops. All good stuff.

So what was bad?


This was the first time both of us felt that the local traffic rivaled the traffic in D.C.

Rush hours that start before 3:00 p.m. and go until after 8:00 p.m.? Check. Traffic jams on Saturday afternoons? Check. 3 mile trips that should take 10 minutes that take 40 minutes? Check. Lights where there shouldn’t be lights? Check. No lights where there should definitely be lights? Check. There are just too many people in too compact an area driving on roads that were never designed to handle that type of capacity.

To explain just how noticeable and stressful it was, consider this: For the last two months, I have been driving our RV from place to place. Since we left Yellowstone in late July, I have driven all 55 feet of our lives from one place to the next in an attempt to build my confidence.

Yeah we can!!!!

….except in Portland.

Portland traffic was enough to crush my burgeoning RV-driving confidence.

I drove Barney from Bend into Portland (which included going through construction zones, over significant mountain passes, driving in the rain, and then getting through a section of the city on our way into the campground), but when it was time to head to our next location, I asked Kevin to drive us out. I was just too nervous about dealing with the rig in that kind of congestion and I didn’t want to create an unnecessary setback. Portland traffic was that bad.


Portland is known as a hipster mecca, which is all well and good with us, until said hipsters start giving us attitude.

We went into one coffee place and felt like the employees were looking us up and down two seconds after we walked in the door. I guess we weren’t wearing enough plaid and sadness. And look, hipster barista guy, Kevin is not ever gonna wear skinny jeans. Never! Do you hear me? It’s not gonna happen. I consider it a success if I can get him to wear pants at all. So when he walks into your fine establishment and orders his $42 cup of ethically distributed, fair trade certified, independently produced, sustainably farmed, unicorn poop coffee, he’s gonna be wearing baggie jeans and a Captain America T-Shirt and you’re just gonna have to deal with it, alright Misery Man?


The funny thing is, they hated us and they didn’t even know we buy our coffee at Costco and think Dunkin Donuts is a goddamned national treasure.

Man, they would have been so mad….

Anyway, the point is, there are a bunch of people who reside in Portland who need to get the hell over themselves.

The Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area

The Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area - view from Vista House
The Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area – view from Vista House

“Wait, what? You’re saying you didn’t like the Columbia River Gorge? What the hell is wrong with you?” Just hold on…. I’m not saying we didn’t like it. We did. The problem is, the vast majority of it is closed off. Last year, wildfires destroyed a huge swath of the forest, leaving it inaccessible until it is once again deemed safe – which could be years from now.

Here is the current map (large version here). Route 30 runs along the southern edge of the river and usually provides visitors access to numerous scenic overlooks and trails. However, as you can see, about 75% of the route is currently closed down. Visitors are limited to just a handful of sites.

We stopped by Vista House, home to the visitor center, and got the very short list of places we were allowed to visit and then headed out. The volunteer we spoke with told us the Forest Service had been intending to open one particular trail the following week, but because of a nearby rock slide, they had to put those plans on hold indefinitely. They simply have no idea when they will be able to open things up again. It’s pretty sad.

Vista House

One of the few places that is currently open for viewing is famous Multnomah Falls – which ended up being a completely different experience than we expected.  We had a picture of this waterfall in a frame on our kitchen wall for years:

Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area
Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area

Little did we know that, about 300 yards from the waterfall was a highway. We’d always assumed we would have to hike deep into the forest to get to this captivating spot. But nope. Just park your car, walk under a tunnel like you’re walking into a soccer stadium, pass the vendors selling cotton candy and hot chocolate, and voila! One of the most picturesque waterfalls in the U.S.


We visited a couple other waterfalls that were open to visitors. The standout was Latourell Falls. At 249 feet, it was just awesome.

Check out the people at the bottom for the scale of this thing….

While the volume of water going over the falls wasn’t particularly enormous, because of it’s extreme height, and because the water was falling unobstructed to the ground, the intensity of the falls was incredible. People standing nearby were subject to powerful winds and deafening sound.

This girl got drenched as she walked within 15 feet of the waterfall.

The Costly

Ya’ll remember the Xterra, right? You know… the car I love more than anything but which has been costing us more and more as it ages and which seems to have something wrong every freaken day of the week? You know. That one?

Anyway, way back when we were in Lake Havasu, we brought it in because, on occasion, we would see smoke coming from the hood of the car – which is generally frowned upon. We took it to a mechanic who told us that the gasket seals on one side of the engine were deteriorating which was allowing small droplets of oil to spurt out every so often, land on the hot engine block, and smoke. He said: “the good news is, you can just ignore the seals for the time being because other than looking and smelling bad, they’re not really a problem. The bad news is, your radiator is about to shit the bed and you need to replace it right now.” (He didn’t actually say that, but you get the point.) So, we replaced the radiator and headed out.

Unfortunately, however, the smoky oil problem has, over time, worsened and people really give you some strange looks when you’re driving down the road with black smoke pouring out of your engine…. We even had a random stranger walk up to us in a parking lot and ask if we needed water to put the fire out. “Nope, we’re good, thanks!!”

Sigh…. We are classy with a K!!

Anyway, while driving around in our personal climate-change-mobile, we noticed another problem: a little rattling sound that would occasionally become audible when we engaged the clutch. Long story short, there’s a bearing buried deep inside the clutch that, after enough years, goes bad. And if you don’t replace it, eventually you’ll get stranded, so, unlike our smoke issue, we couldn’t ignore this for long. And if you’re already tearing the whole clutch apart to replace the bearing, and the car has 120,000 miles on it, guess what you should get? A brand new clutch!! Sweet!!!!!

Given all the other stuff that has been happening, we decided to spring for the “80 point inspection” and find out, once and for all, what else was wrong with the Xterra so we could stop our endless “Mechanics Across America” pilgrimmage. Result: in addition to our clutch, the front brake calipers were not releasing fully, so we got new calipers, new brake pads, and whatever else goes along with new brakes, they replaced the gasket seals on both sides of the engine, and a we got a new front tire because it was worn (as a result of the caliper problem).

So, $2,500 later, our car is no longer smoking, rattling, pulling, or likely to strand us. Yay!

And I know what you’re thinking: “Oh my god, just buy a new car!!” The fact is, even with all of these repairs, it still costs less for us to keep the Xterra than go buy something else. Plus, even with all the current age related issues, it has never stranded us and we know exactly what has and hasn’t been done over the years. Given our recent tendency to drive to all kinds of crazy, remote places, we want something we know and can rely on. So, budget be damned, the Xterra it is!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have 3 cases of ramen to put away because that’s what we’ll be eating for the rest of the year.


  1. The Japanese gardens were so cool! I love all the thought and planning that went into it. The rose garden looked awesome, too. I am very jealous about the ice cream and intrigued by the olive oil one…. Those water falls are stunning!!! As for the Xterra, that sucks – but I needed a new clutch at 190K miles and JUST that was $3K, so you did okay overall.

    • I still can’t believe $3K for just a clutch. Prior to this debacle, the most we ever spent on a repair for that car was $1,000 and that was the timing belt and all the stuff that goes along with that. Ugh… I’d much rather spend $1,000 on ice cream, that’s all I’m saying… Anyway, I did not try the olive oil one, but really should have. It sounds so weird, but given the rest of the stuff they had, I have no doubt it would be incredible!

  2. Hopefully, you walked through the Japanese garden after paying for the Xterra for the calming affect. I could spend days in a place like that. Wow on the waterfalls. I wouldn’t have done well with hipster attitude!

    • If we knew then what we know now, we definitely would have left the Japanese Garden until the end of our stay in Portland. It would have helped immensely. It was so serene and so calm and so quiet. Just lovely.

  3. Funny story (again)! Love reading about life’s trials and triumphs from your unique view point!
    We finally returned ‘home’ (near the grandchildren in NC) after 6 months and 28,000 miles finding Alaska. Before we left we loaded up the stock inventory of all the goods remaining from when the world was coming to an end. (Not the last time, the time before that!)
    Your comment about the Ramen triggered a memory… we had tons of noodles left over and took it all with us. My wife, being an avid and capable cook fixed pasta dishes in every way imaginable, yet we came home with 30+ boxes remaining. ????
    Same situation with toilet tissue. The tissue takes up an entire basement bay, although we used a case and a half on the trip!
    I fully understand the bad in Portland, but didn’t have to go there as we’ve been to DC and many other cities on the east coast, especially FL where they seem to have similar attitudes. (We love the NC & SC & GA beaches though!)
    The Anderson Japanese Gardens in Illinois are wonderful too! Small town environment, but exotic none the less!
    Keep up the good writing! Bp

    • Thanks for your kind words, Bill. I really appreciate it! In my view, you can never have too much pasta or toilet paper, though 30+ boxes AFTER 6 months and 28,000 miles IS pretty impressive. How long were you guys planning on living in your underground bunker?? 🙂 It is interesting though to think about being prepared with enough supplies for a trip to Alaska. As I understand it, there’s a whole lot of nothing between here and there. We’re still not sure whether we are going to drive the rig up there, but if we do, you can best believe I will have multiple bays dedicated to pasta and toilet paper! No one’s gonna go hungry – or have to use paper towels – around here! 🙂

  4. Oh, Laura….too funny. Except the Xterra. Sorry about that. Can’t imagine how the hipster barista would have treated old fogies like us! Our biggest stressor is driving our dually, Bart (big ass red truck) in large cities & finding big enough spots to park. DC wasn’t a problem with its transit system. Does Portland have any? If not, we may have to avoid it.

    • There is actually a light rail and subway system in Portland, but when I looked at it, it would have taken us an extremely long time to get to the places we wanted to go. It is workable, just not as well laid out as some other systems. Again, the city just keeps growing and growing and the transportation system has not kept up. I will say, we did not have a problem finding parking. We are obviously smaller than you, but I don’t think that will be too much of an issue. There were plenty of parking garages downtown and in the smaller neighborhoods, we never had an issue finding street parking.

  5. I love the way you tell your story! It’s wonderful to have a good belly laugh in the morning (I read blogs with my morning first cup). Portland used to be a really great place and from what you showed us, still is – partially. I have no interest in visiting again, however. Traffic puts me right off these days.
    I’m sorry to hear that the Columbia Gorge is off limits for the time being. We were so lucky to have really “done” it a few years ago and have it firmly in our memories. The only thing “bad” that happened to us there was an oil train derailment and fire that closed I-84 while we were away from Beluga (and the dogs). We were camped at Memaloose State Park and the only way in was through a rest stop on the interstate. I made such a “crying woman, hissy fit” at the roadblock that they escorted us back to the Park on the closed highway with a caveat that if we had an emergency, no one would come……always an exciting life!
    Glad you got the car fixed, you can’t afford to be stranded, and it’s no fun….

    • Thanks Sue! I’m glad to know I provide some humor with your morning coffee! I would be right there with you, melting down, if I was told I could not get back to my dog in an emergency situation. Every time I see these stories about people abandoning their animals in crises, it just kills me. So yeah, I’d throw a hissy fit too. I’m jealous you got to see Columbia Gorge. It’s obviously such a spectacular place and we were so bummed that we didn’t get to see it. The good news is, from what I’ve been reading, 8 or 10 years from now, it will be like nothing ever happened. Fires are just part of the forest cycle. Guess we’ll just have to plan to head back then!

  6. I was loving this post so much then got to the part about you driving, and now I’m mad at you because I have no excuse. ???? Oh, PNW traffic, how I do not miss thee. Sorry to hear about the Xterra, but glad you get to keep it. No, wait, I’m mad at you for that, too, because now TBG is bothering me about not driving stick-shift (I can, I refuse.)

    “Plaid and sadness” is the quintessential and funniest description of Portland style I’ve ever heard. All is forgiven! ????

    • Hahaha! Don’t be mad! You can do it!! I promise! We did take driving lessons – both of us – when we first bought the RV. It was helpful, but it’s really all just about getting experience. It will be months before I’m really comfortable, but after each trip where I don’t drive us into a ditch, I build a tiny bit of confidence and it gets easier the next time. Plus, I get to yell “Crushed it!!” after every drive. It’s really quite fun! You can (and really should… seriously) know how to drive the RV. I should have been doing this all along, but I got complacent and that’s not a good idea, especially when we’re always so far from “home” and the people we know. My next project is learning how to handle all the tanks by myself. It’s been two years… No more of this “boys jobs/girls jobs” stuff. We can do it… even if we don’t really want to. 🙂

  7. I am impressed! You have been driving the rig??? I still have not gotten behind the wheel. And not sure I ever will. Sorry about the Xterra, but glad it’s fixed and reliable again. We stayed in Portland as a hop over, so only saw Multnoma Falls, but it was still nice to see.

    • If I can do it, you can do it! And you should… If you’re in the middle of nowhere and something happens, you don’t want to get stranded. And if there’s one thing we keep learning as we travel around this country, it’s that there’s a lot of “nowhere” all around us. The good part of that is: there’s a lot of places for you to learn how to drive in calm and quiet conditions. You can do it!!

      • One reason we have FMCA! If something happens they will send someone to come get you and your coach. But, yeah, I really do need to learn.

  8. I fully get the budget busting issues, since we have had our share dealing with our grifter pastor tenet, but all you can do is suck it up, adjust and move forward. Keeping your only car in tip top shape is wise, we are doing the same, and if you want to feel good, just go look at the prices of a new one…ouch!

    • Yup, we’ve chatted about it several times. Buying new would be crazy – there are only so many options for what we can pull 4 down and most of them are very expensive. And buying used is just a crapshoot. And no matter what, we’d have to drop a couple grand on a new tow package. It just doesn’t make sense. So yeah, we will just make adjustments as necessary and deal with it. Living full time in an RV is all about being flexible, right?

  9. You were totally inspired writing this post!! Your description of your coffee shop experience is hysterical. Love the image of Kevin in his baggy jeans and Captain America t-shirt encountering Hipster Barista. The best part is that Mr. Plaid-and-Sadness is behind the counter making coffee drinks while Kevin is just stopping by for a moment in his life of freedom and fun. Hahaha!
    I know that many of our friends have been overwhelmed by Portland traffic. We visit Portland for a week every year because we have family there, and traffic has never been a problem. But we’re staying at a different RV park this time and that might change our experience. I hope not, because we’ve always had a blast in the city and we HAVE to return.
    So sorry about your Xterra problems. Smoke coming out of the engine—yeah, not a good look, even when the mechanic says it’s a non-issue. You made a hilarious story out of it, though. Thanks for the great laughs!

    • While some of these things that happen to us are exhausting and ridiculous and expensive, they do provide good blog material, so I guess there’s always that. 🙂 I’m glad people enjoy it. It’s nice to be able to share these stories with people who can relate. As for the traffic, we were at Columbia River RV Park, so basically, every time we headed downtown, we’d be on I-5 and that would consistently back up near the river. Depending on the time of day, it could back up all the way to where we got on I-5. So, just like in DC, if we wanted to go anywhere downtown, we had to make sure we were there by early afternoon. If your usual RV park is in a completely different location, it would absolutely make sense that traffic might not be such an issue. Though, from the sound of it, everything is getting worse every year. Blech. Anyway, fingers crossed that you don’t have too much aggravation!

  10. Well the hipster coffee shop should be glad Kev wasn’t wearing his ratty 20 year old pair of cargo shorts. ???? As always your posts and pics are great.

    • You know the only reason he ever gets rid of things is when they literally disintegrate… he finally got rid of his old cargo shorts when there was nothing left for me to sew of the pockets… He’s so ridiculous. Anyway, thank you!!! 🙂

  11. I just read your hipster coffee paragraph aloud to Jeff (as he brews his own hipster coffee). You nailed Portlandia. We also felt that way last year when we were there. Totally not cool enough… whatever.

    • I was watching youtube compilations of that stuff… it’s truly a thing. I was nodding along like “Yup, we met that guy… and yeah, met that girl too… same clothes, same attitude, same everything….” Amazing how that happens….

  12. After months of driving wide open spaces, we’re sort of dreading the traffic of the west coast. Glad to know our apprehension is based on reality, at least. We’ve also sort of concluded that RVing is not the ideal way to see any reasonably large city. Much easier to fly in, stay in a hotel, use Uber to get around, etc. But since we are actually RVing, we tend to stay pretty far outside the cities and just drive in for selective trips to specific destinations. Our visit to the San Francisco area in November will feature lots of BART use, I think. But we’re still figuring all this out…..

    • Agreed, RVing and cities really don’t mix particularly well, which is a huge bummer. There are a couple great exceptions (New Orleans, San Diego, NYC), but they are few and far between. Usually, you’re stuck with overpriced campgrounds, far outside the city, and lengthy commutes to get anywhere. It’s frustrating because we love cities and like to experience them on foot, making your flight/hotel/Uber option much more appealing. Driving on the coasts will absolutely be an adjustment, but the upside is you all are experienced with driving the rig now. That will help a lot. On the other hand, I won’t lie, after several weeks in Portland and on the coast, the idea of driving through wide open desert is pretty appealing.

  13. “I consider it a success if I can get him to wear pants at all.”

    Something tells me that we’ll get along just fine if we ever meet IRL. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    • Sad as I am to admit it, from what I hear, there are an awful lot of men who really do not like wearing pants. Maybe there’s a research topic for a psychology grad student here somewhere… I don’t even want to know… But yes, it sounds like we would all get along just fine. 🙂

  14. LOL, great post on Portland…Hipsters, relentless traffic and aboundant homeless encampments…yep, don’t miss living in Portland.

    Glad the Xterra is back on the road…I am sure you will find a creative way to make all that ramen taste delicious.

  15. Now that I have cleared the tears from my eyes, I can see to write. Hey, college kids have lived on ramen for years. You’ll make it:) I so understand your thoughts on Portland. We have visited twice. Our first visit a few years ago was much nicer than our visit last year. We won’t be returning. We felt that rush hour was all day. It was a mess to drive anywhere. Luckily, we visited Multnomah Falls one week before the fire. Boy it sure looks naked now. There is a wonderful hike way up beyond the falls to the top and loop down the other side that leaves the crowd behind. We are with you on the car thing. I don’t understand why so many people think spending $36,000+ on a new car is smarter than spending a couple thousand to repair what you like. It’s beyond us. Congratulations on driving the MH around. You are a braver woman than I am. I have trouble just being the passenger even after eight years.

    • It is interesting to hear just how quickly Portland has changed from a wonderful city that everyone enjoyed to a place where many many people are happy to not set foot in again. It really may become a victim of its own success. I’m jealous that you guys got to see the forest before the fire. I can only imagine how gorgeous it was, between the incredible greenery and the waterfalls. And those forest trails are my favorite kind. Ah well. Some day….

  16. Well thank god you survived that crazy city — and as a footnote, ketchup packets can be used to make tomato soup. Just in case you need a little variety from your noodles. Of course with Pok Pok as inspiration, Kevin should be able to come up with some amazing budget meals. See you on down the road!

    • Aren’t ketchup packets considered a vegetable too? So, basically, if we dumped ketchup on ramen, we would have our carbs and vegetables covered! A most healthy and satisfying diet, if I do say so myself!

  17. I think you know one, or more of my nieces in D.C. I would guess it’s Jennifer since she has the law degree. However, you may know Laura, and Carol also. I have lived in Portland since 1976. I loved it here, because the city felt like an overgrown town. It was very laid back, and almost everyone was friendly. Things were changing quickly by the mid 90’s. Lot’s of people were moving here from almost everywhere, but it seemed like an invasion from California. I escaped to Spokane, Wa. for a couple of years, only to discover the same thing was happening there. So back to Portland I went. The traffic here is terrible. So many new people who don’t know where they are going. Lot’s of them depend on their phone for navigation, and do a poor job of applying voice to actual driving. I agree about the hipsters, their attitude shows up everywhere. Portlandia make this city a mixing pot of eclectic and just plain weird people. At the same time we have had a succession of terrible mayors’. Top it off with article after article on what a great city this is to live in, (it’s not that special) and this is what we got. I’m glad you were able to enjoy some of it. Thanks for the blog. I would like to do the RV life but I haven’t made it happen yet. I appreciate you sharing your travel life with us.

    • Hi! Yes, both Kevin and I went to law school with Jenn, and we met Carol and Laura through her, so we’ve known them for years! What a small world, huh?

      Thanks so much for this comment. It’s always interesting to hear from folks who live or have lived in a place we visit. Obviously, we come to our opinions about places based on our experiences, but all of our experiences, as a matter of course, are always of limited duration. There are times I wonder if it’s unfair for us to judge a place based on a visit of only a week or two, and I often wonder if we would have liked places more, or less, had we stayed longer. As an example, and speaking of California, while most everyone we know who has visited San Diego really enjoyed it, after I wrote about it, a lot of people who had actually lived there, told me they were not big fans at all. That was an interesting point for us to consider.

      Anyway, as for Portland, I am glad to hear that our feelings were not outliers. As someone who’s lived there for a long time, I’m sure it’s even more jarring to see the changes over time. Perhaps after a couple years of dealing with too much traffic, some of these less friendly folks will find the next “new best thing’ and move on. We can all hope anyway…. 🙂

      Thank you again for your comment!

  18. Great read, as usual, Laura! Keep on driving, those tight and traffic congested parts of drives get easier, I promise. I do all the driving (40 ft Allegro Bus & Jeep toad) – I always thought Atlanta was the worst but Houston was constant stop and go traffic anytime, day or night. Love reading your impressions of places and have used them to build some of our trips and stops. We’ll be in AZ for the winter now and we’re actually really enjoying not having planning and reserving sites sort of hanging over us. I know we’ll be ready to go by March 1 though! I’ll be re-checking your other west coast blogs for places to avoid and cool things to see. Safe travels!!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! I really appreciate it and am happy to know these posts are helpful to other RVers. We were actually surprised by how easy our trip across Houston was. I think we must have hit it at the perfect time of day or something, because we sailed across the city from east to west on the highway and never slowed down once. I believe it was mid morning on a weekday. We must have just gotten very lucky because everyone else we’ve known who’s dealt with it, described it as awful. Anyway, I know exactly how you feel about having those winter reservations taken care of. I, too, just finalized the last of our February stops in Arizona and it was pretty stressful. Everyone on the planet wants to be there or Florida, so finding a decent spot to set up can be really tough. Maybe we’ll all end up in the same place at some point!

  19. Great post Laura! Love the coffee shop; hipster story/experience! What a treat to get the tour of the gardens. It’s so neat that there are o accidents there and everything has a purpose…even the sidewalks. The falls are incredible. It saddens me to read about the Columbia River Gorge.

    Kudos to you for driving the MH…

    • Thank you! We really enjoyed the gardens, especially learning about why everything was done the way it was done. It truly makes you appreciate your surroundings when someone points that kind of stuff out and explains it.

  20. You are one hell of a woman driving Barney, while listening to Kevin or your GPS telling you what to do and when to turn! I’m impressed!
    I was drooling with the chicken, the ice cream and the donuts, but no matter how yummy they are it won’t make me come back to Portland. We only drove their once and we were never impressed 🙁
    Too bad about the fire and smoke and crowd wherever you go. We did enjoy the gorge for a week, on both sides and even went wine tasting on the WA side and beer on the Oregon side.
    As always great post and story telling, you are hilarious!

    • Thanks ML! I remember when you guys visited the gorge and had SUCH a great time! I didn’t realize how much damage had been done by the fire last year, so we were really unprepared to find so much was closed off. It was even more disappointing knowing how much we were missing… But alas, sometimes that’s how it goes. Luckily, we seem to have finally broken free of the endless heat/smoke/crowds aggravation. The Oregon coast has been delightfully quiet and enjoyable. Just what the doctor ordered!

  21. I definitely can’t wait to visit those Japanese Gardens! I was at a tiny one this weekend in Hot Springs, Arkansas and still loved it. They are so peaceful and contemplative. Sorry about all the car trouble. We had two flats in 2 weeks and have blown a couple hydraulic lines on our RV so I feel your pain. Do you have any specific plans how long you will full-time RV? We’re on year 4 and thinking we may fade out and think year 5 might be a good time to transition to part-time. So basically after our western tour next summer. We’ll see…

    • Honestly, I don’t know. We originally envisioned this being a 3 year project, and we just started year 3, but there is SO much we will not have seen by the end of 3 years and we are still really enjoying it. So, assuming we can stop having financial catastrophes, and assuming we can still get health insurance, I am hopeful we’ll be able to keep going for a couple more years. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get burned out before that. From what we’ve seen, most people don’t do this for more than three or four years. It is tiring, it is complicated, it is expensive, and there are other people in our lives – friends and family – who are being neglected because we’re off screwing around – which is not fair to them. So yeah, the short answer is: I have no idea. I think the time and place of our next chapter will become obvious when it’s time.

  22. I love it! So…if C and I had a pre-nup, skinny jeans would have been the trigger for a massive payout to me… Can’t wait to catch up in December! xoxo

  23. Laura, I know that writing a blog is time-consuming, but I am so glad you do it because my husband and I love learning and laughing our way through your posts! This really nailed the current Portland. I say this as an Old Portlander (which is a REAL name that we get called by the noveau hipsters when we wax cranky and bitter about them, but HELLO). I just want you to know that it was once truly an Eden. I was born there in 1956 and grew up in a beautiful, cultured, big -small-ptown. The Gorge trails and waterfalls were deserted most of the time; there was no such thing as “rush hour” anywhere until the late 1980s; people were so much friendlier than they are there now. Sometimes in high school I’d walk to the Japanese Gardens from my house and spend an hour there and see, like, two other people. Or I’d walk from school to a little corner bookstore I loved and chat with its owner, Mr. Powell (yes, THAT Powell ????). But it got discovered in the late 80s, and again in the 90s . . . and then, in the early 2000s it turned into Mecca for wannabe hipsters. I can assure you that a lot of those people came to Portland wearing baggy pants and Captain America T-shirts! The troll beards, lumberjacky shirts, coffee attitude and fixed-gear bicycles came later ….???? My husband and I moved to Eugene in 1989 and are glad we did. I miss Portland terribly, but the Portland I miss is long gone. (Well, okay, Blue Star Donuts, Salt and Straw, and Powell’s are almost worth the traffic). Anyway, I’m sorry but not surprised to hear about your Portland experience. Thank you for sharing it. Your blog is searingly, hilariously honest. You bring us the good, bad, ugly — and the reassuringly-still-beautiful!

    • Wow, thank you so much for this comment! I appreciate the support for the blog and I appreciate hearing from another person who has an understanding of Portland’s past. Our friend Celena, who I mentioned in this post, used to live there and noted in a Facebook comment that even in the time she and her husband lived in the city, they observed noticeable changes. She said the increased traffic made locals less friendly toward “outsiders” and the underlying problems are only getting worse, causing even more unfriendliness. Whatever the case may be, it is too bad that the city has changed so much. To go from a place with a small town vibe where you actually KNEW Mr. Powell, to this overhyped, overpopulated, caricature is really pretty disheartening. But, I guess that’s what happens in a lot of places. We’ve heard that the typical path of a city is for it to get run down and therefore cheap enough for the “starving artists” to move in, the artists make things cool and improve the area, then the hipsters and the cool kids move in, after which the restaurants and trendy shops start appearing, followed by the yuppies who force out all the artists who made it cool in the first place. Sounds about right for a lot of cities we’ve visited. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for your kind comments. I very much enjoy writing this blog and I am happy to know when it resonates with other folks. Thank you again!


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