The City of Roses: First Impressions

Well, I'm just wrapping up my first day here in Portland.  You may be thinking: "Wrapping up?  Matt, it's only 6/7 at night!"  Hey, when you get up at friggin' 4 in the morning, it feels like the day should already be over. :)

My trip to Portland is an experiment in a couple ways.  It's the first time in a while that I've been on my own travelling to a city, staying in Hostel, and navigating a new place without a car.  This makes it good practice for Europe. (I always have a plan you know :-P)  With that, I'm going to try and blog each day while I'm here, since I hope to keep an e-journal while in Europe using my blog.  

This trip's also one of my less planned trips.  Of course I have lots of little things to see, but there aren't any major attractions per se.  Really, I'm just curious what this town's like, since everybody says it's a curious little place.  Who knows, someday I might even live here!  I liked Seattle a lot, so I want to see how Portland suits me.  

I started the day by taking MAX, their train system, to my hostel via a bus to drop off my bags at the hostel.  Then I thought, "Hmm, I bought an all-day ticket, might as well go explore today."  Oh yea, that's one plus: one ticket gets me on all the buses, trains, etc for the whole day for $4.75.  Suck on that BART!  

Intel's Ronler Acres Campus

I remembered Rob saying something about Intel being right off the train sort-of, which is over in Hillsboro, so I took the long trip over there.  Hillsboro is also known as "Silicon Forest", the tech hotspot of the area. (compared to San Jose ["Silicon Valley"] and Austin ["Silicon Hills"])  Besides those three and upstate New York, this area is probably one of the main places I could get a job.  I made the trek in the wet weather (it's been raining off and on) up to one of Intel's 3 big campuses.  It was quite amazing; it had several development buildings and fab plants.  I decided to just sort of stroll up to the front door and see what they could offer me.  No surprise, I couldn't get a tour or a job.  Oh well haha, I didn't really expect to even get that far and I don't really think I'd like to work there anyways.

Next, I ventured over to the actual town of Hillsboro to grab lunch.  Not much to say about that town, other than it's a fairly small downtown with a mix of stuff, mostly older.  The houses in general, however, were very nice (and cheaper than CA I'm sure!)

I trekked back across town and checked into my room at the hostel.  The hostel is really cool; it has an "eco-roof" that provides rain water for the bathroom.  They have all the usual HI amenities: kitchen, common area, a bunch of beds.  I met a few people so far, including a guy who apparently used to be homeless, but then moved to CA and is now back to clear up some legal issues.  Evidently he stole OTC meds, cough syrup, and other stuff to "give out to people" to fight the evil corporations.  I'm guessing it was just to get high, but whatever, everybody's got a story to tell.  He went on a rant about the Iraq war and he's also a major Jesus freak, so that should make for some interesting discussions.  The other guy I met, Brad, is from Alberta, Canada.  He and I ventured into the Hawthorne district to grab a bite to eat.  He's a student up there in Liberal Arts who's down here for some concerts coming up.

Downtown Hawthorne

Afterwords, he headed downtown, while I explored more of Hawthorne in the (now) steady rain.  I forgot my umbrella at the hostel, so I ended up getting soaked, but it was cool to see the neighborhood.  It has a lot of funky little shops; kind of like a miniature Haight-Ashbury district.  I found a indy coffee shop to settle down and plan out tomorrow, and that's where you find me writing now.

So far, here's a few first impressions/things I've noticed:
  • Green!  Both in color and in sustainability.  Definitely my kinda place if that's where my career lies.  Everywhere I go I see the words "recycle", "green", and "organic".  My favorite so far is a light rail plastered with an ad of Peter from Family Guy saying, "Don't pollute, just get on and sit on your butt!".  Awesome.  Oh, and they also require no idling in places.  I didn't even know we had that in the US!
  • Bikes are everywhere, even when it rains!  Again, +1 for Portland.
  • Oh yea, rain, what a concept!  Okay, it's been an El Nino of a year in CA, so we're getting a lotta rain, but not as much as this city.  It feels a LOT like Seattle in terms of weather, although I hear it gets really hot now in the summer.
  • MAX rules and VTA drools.  The mass transit is SO much better (and cheaper) than BART or VTA.  I took it right from the airport (hello SJ, you listening?) to my hostel.
  • Smokers abound.  Well, maybe it's on par with D-town, but in CA I NEVER see anybody smoking, so maybe I just have a polarized view.  It doesn't really bother me, I guess it just caught me off guard.
  • Thai restaurants are in.  Man, I thought it was a coincidence at first, but I've seen multiple Thai restaurants in several cities, from east to west.  Hell, even the small Hillsboro downtown had 3 Thai restaurants.  I can safely say this is not Rob's type of town for food lol!
  • It's true, you can't pump your own gas!  I finally saw it with my own eyes folks.  I would've taken a picture for ya, but I felt like it might be awkward.
  • No sales tax woo!  No wonder people live across the border in WA (low property tax? or maybe to pump their own gas haha) and come here to buy stuff.
  • Lotsa cute girls (well, to me).  None of the fake, SoCal crap.  People that live in actual weather always appear more "real life" to me than those in the dreamland of California.  People in general are not as clean around the edges, which is what I'm more used to from the Midwest I guess.
Well, that about does it.  Based on my first day of travel here, I can safely say I'd be down for living up here someday.  Maybe that or Seattle.  Well okay, the gas thing is weird, but other than that everything I've written is a plus.  After checking out downtown and some more neighborhoods, maybe I'll have a better idea.

So what's on tap?  Tomorrow, I plan on hanging out in the downtown area, checking out the Rose Festival, as well as some shops and markets that are big here.  Sunday's my day to bike the gorge, it's hopefully going to be sunny.  Besides that, who knows, I want to check out one or a few of the many microbreweries here in Portland, which is the microbrew captial of the US.  Then I'm back in SJ Monday afternoon.

Alright guys, I'm off to din-din and then to chill at the hostel, peace!


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