From the Road

This definitely comes from the partly too-much-technology department but this post is being written from the road. The road in this question is I-5 as we head back from Portland to the Seattle area.


I was curious how sharing the net connection on my cell phone would work to surf the web from my notebook. So far it is working well with about a 400K connection as we drive along.


We went to Portland for the weekend to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary.


This time we decided to stay in the heart of downtown Portland at the Paramount Hotel. The hotel isn’t bad but if it weren’t for a deal from Priceline, I’m not sure I would stay there again. It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with the hotel, more that aside from location I didn’t find anything unique or interesting about the hotel. And with several hotels in the downtown area, if we opt to stay in the downtown area again I’d probably see what other lodging in the area has to offer.


Staying in downtown Portland has some definite advantages though. Downtown Portland is a shining example to the pedestrian friendly nature of much of the entire city. It is of course no means perfect and as you get into the burbs, the U.S. car culture can obviously be seen more and more. That said, Portland is second only to San Francisco for the places I’ve lived in terms of being a genuinely pedestrian and public transit friendly location.


TriMet, Portland’s regional transit authority, offers numerous bus, light rail and even streetcar connections throughout the city. The downtown area is central to many of these transit alternatives. Staying in the area over the weekend reminded me of just how easy it can be in Portland without a car.


This is by no means to say that Portland is perfect. It isn’t but what strikes me each time I visit is how much more happens on the public transit front in the city compared to Seattle. I lived in Portland for about five and one half years and have been in Seattle for a year longer already. In the time I lived in Portland, the city expanded their light rail, known as MAX, to the west side and was well underway with a line to the airport. Since that time the airport route has become operational and construction on another route is well underway.

By comparison, Seattle seems stuck on the talk phase. Some progress has happened and I won’t pretend to be an expert but the region seems to lack both a driving coordination of a regional transit plan and the ability to get much done. Seattle in size is clearly not Portland and some of the transit challenges are different in Seattle but I’ve seen what can happen and believe the Seattle area falls short of the mark.


Our trip of course wasn’t about evaluation of public transit. Friday morning we headed over to Northwest Portland for breakfast at Besaw’s Restaurant. Absolutely perfect summer weather, an outdoor patio and good quality breakfast food made the dining experience topnotch. Of course the company was the most important thing.


Friday evening we went to McMenamins Crystal Ballroom to take in a concert from a band Aimee wanted to see called Galactic. The ballroom has a rich history and is good to catch live shows if dancing and such are what you want along with music. Seating is limited to a balcony above the main ballroom floor and the acoustics that result from this listing point have a bit of a barn-like echo. This was more noticeable during the opening act where the volume was a bit lower. I never did catch the name of this opening act but they rocked the early crowd.


Galactic took the stage about 10:15 PM. I wasn’t familiar with the band aside from Aimee’s brief description that they’d been described as playing funk and jazz. These are two genres of music that I prefer to experience live because recordings rarely capture the energy and variation that a live performance offers. I was impressed with what I heard which was good old rock music mixed together with some New Orleans style jazz. This is a band I’ll explore further.


Saturday afternoon we spent a few hours at the Waterfront Blues festival held at Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Another absolutely gorgeous northwest summer day and a wide range of music on the menu made the three hours we spent a great time. My music collection’s going to have to grow as an artist by the name of Liv Warfield that we listened to captured my attention.


Festivals like the one we attended usually have you walking around between various stages listening to snippets of music, taking in the various stands selling goods and in general strolling around. I had heard Liv singing in the background while we were walking around and wanted to hear more. Eventually we made our way to her performance and to my ears, this is one performer to listen to. She has a voice and presence that fills the room, which is saying a lot for an outdoor music festival. Her voice is full and the songs I heard spoke to many of the basic human emotions and experiences. Not being familiar with the artist, I’m not sure of the song titles yet but there was some of the standards found in music like love, dishonesty and in general the passion of life. We humans are certainly messed up at times but I guess it provides ample material for artists.


Saturday evening we met a longtime friend for dinner at Swagat, an Indian restaurant again in northwest Portland. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m pretty fickle n the food department but I’ve come to enjoy some of the spices associated with Indian food. My menu selections still tend to revolve around variation on the chicken and rice theme but I do enjoy quality Indian food. Swagat wasn’t outstanding but it is a place I’d go again.


Our trip is closing down as I said with our drive back up I-5 to Redmond. A web search for breakfast has us heading off to someplace called the Shipwreck café so we’ll see how that goes.


Closing out from the technology aspect of this posting, the net connection has remained solid for the entire drive thus far. The world is getting more connected daily. The part of me that studied journalism in college marvels how I can sit here composing these words as we drive and have them published online while I continue to ride in the car. It is a long way from the days of a manual typewriter and cut and paste operations that were the norm in my high school newspaper writing career. It is only the failure to bring one particular cable that’s stopping me from publishing some of the audio from our trip along with this post. That will have to wait until we get home.

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