Portland and Seattle – Two Nights, Two Cities – Part 1

After spending two weeks on the road and before embarking on the final leg of our journey, the guys and I spent two nights in cities to rest up and enjoy good company. Leaving the gorgeous Oregon coast was hard, but knowing that Portland was the next stop made our departure easier. Since Portland is well known for its trademarked Northwestern outdoorsyness (it’s a word if I say it is, auto-correct), we actually bypassed the city and drove to a little bouldering spot about 30 miles to the east.

Trusting the website, we pulled off the highway to find a country road that turned into a forestry road and parked in front of the specified gate. While I rallied up some camera gear, Peyton and Daniel stepped out to look around and noted the directions on the friendly climbing forum were decidedly sketchy. Unfortunately they proved to be at least inaccurate because we only found one minuscule boulder, barely worth shoes and chalk.

Anyway, feeling duped, we headed back into Portland to meet up with my friend Richard who was extremely kind to offer up his living room to us last minute. We hoped for a local perspective mixed with some “must-do” touristy attractions, and Richard delivered with a specialized tour only available from one who knows what is cool but still appreciates what is corny.

To begin, we took the train from his apartment to downtown and walked to Deschutes Brewery for a mouth-watering dinner. In true Portland fashion, everything was local. My elk burger was divine, definitely the best meal up to that point in our trip. Richard then took us to the “Keep Portland Weird” sign, which didn’t have a line sprouting out from it, and pointed out a few places we should check out the next day when they opened. To end the night on a high note, he took us to the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. To paraphrase Richard: there are better doughnut shops in Portland, but Voodoo Donuts is an experience you have to have at least once as a visitor.

We took ours to go, hopped on the train, and chilled on the rooftop patio of Richard’s apartment building. Overlooking Portland’s dazzling lights, we chowed down on various doughnuts (mine was covered in Cocoa Puffs) and talked about whatever.

The next day–the day before our departure to Alaska–we decided to hangout in Portland for a bit to visit Richard’s recommended stores and check out the amazing food stands. I found a tiny leather-bound journal at Made Here to take back to Emily as an adventure planning book. We passed Powell’s City of Books but decided not to go in. Instead, we spent our remaining time reading menus on about 60 food carts. Maybe I should have chosen lunch from one of the many amazing ethnic food options, but something about “The Cheesus” just reached out to my American spirit. Two greasy grilled cheeses as buns on the juiciest burger I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t resist. After devouring a heart attack, I was ready to hit the road and find our next mountain bike park in Seattle.



Road Trip Reads – Part 2

Last year I took a water resources class taught by Melissa Hinten, Ph.D. of the Geography Department here at the University of Tennessee. I thoroughly enjoyed the level of engagement and the teaching style that Dr. Hinten brought to the already interesting subject of water management and its history. (In class we read Water 4.0 by David Sedlak, which was informative but still light enough to read for leisure. If you are interested in the history behind the management of our water, look into this book, and count it as a bonus suggestion.)  In her work, Dr. Hinten focuses on biogeography, land use and land cover change, GIS, and geography education. She was kind enough to contribute her perspective with these thought-provoking recommendations for readers. I hope you enjoy them!

Dr. Melissa Hinten:

“1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus” by Charles Mann.

1491 is one of my favorite books and I refer to it often in my courses. It is the book that I think of when I think of a connection to nature.  1491 is a nonfiction account of the Americas prior to Columbus and the Age of Discovery.  A dominant narrative was, and still is to some degree, that the “New World” was sparsely inhabited and the people that lived there were primitive. Mann builds a new narrative using archaeological and archival evidence to argue that the population of the Americas was much more densely populated with advanced societies on par with those of the “Old World”.  This is my book selection for connecting with nature because as I look at the landscape after reading this book I have a great appreciation for humankind’s long history of influence on the land.  For example, Mann dispels the myth that the Amazon rain forest is a pristine and primordial forest that has never been influenced by human intervention.  What Mann explains is that the South American rain-forest has for millennia been purposefully manipulated and tended to by South American peoples.

“The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” by Eric Weiner.

The Geography of Bliss inspired me to be adventurous, or at least planted the seed of new travel destinations.  Eric Weiner travels to ten countries in search for what makes a country and its population happy.  He chooses the countries based on sociological rankings of the happiest, or in one instance the least happy, countries in the world.  The Geography of Bliss is a humorous account of the search for what truly makes populations happy.  Some of the countries he visits seem like obviously happy populations – like the Netherlands and Switzerland, but he also visits countries like Qatar and Iceland that seem less obviously happy.  The Geography of Bliss is a delightful read for anyone interested in exploring the world and understanding the meaning of happiness.

“Incognito: the Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman

Incognito is my wildcard choice for a book to read.  I found this book absolutely fascinating and it led me to read other brain science books, which are a hot topic these days.  Incognito is a well written and easy to read book about our perception, about what it means to consciously know something from a neuroscience perspective.  David Eagleman uses fascinating case studies and examples to illustrate his arguments – this book will be a gateway book for anyone interested in learning more about neuroscience and cognition.