Oregon 2015, Part 3: The Gals in The Dalles Love Gucci

The Dalles, Columbia River Gorge, Portland, Oregon (Map)

Summer 2015


It was easy enough to leave the interstate behind and find our reserved motel room in the small city of The Dalles. Happy to finally be done driving & sleep in a bed tonight (instead of a car), we cleaned ourselves up and hit the town.

The first spot was alright because it had a good beer selection and it was in the historic county courthouse, but it was also sort of vanilla. Thankfully they were closing in a 1/2-hour.

Committing to a couple blocks of wandering, it didn't take long to stumble upon the Windy River Lounge.

In the past I would have avoided places like this - places without windows where I can't size up the clientele - but I've come to like local, divey bars more, and the Windy River was all that. In what felt like a mix of a Wisconsin tavern and an unrenovated mall bar, we got our beers in mason jars (unironically) and sat amongst faux brick, wood panelling and neon beer signs. A couple of girls were playing pool and I dreadfully sighed when they talked of putting something on the jukebox, but then they put on Gucci Mane. This was instead of the Pitbull or Jason Derulo I'd predicted. Nice!

The next morning I woke up early to fit in some bike riding before our day of touring began. Unfortunately, some MENSA candidate in the recreation department decided the skatepark needed to be watered.

That old county courthouse bar is the red brick building on the left.

So I rode street instead. The Dalles' curbs were fun to bump jump, I found a few loading docks & then I inexplicably ate it hard on a stem-high rail. I also put some pegs on this ledge behind the fire station for a picture, but it bothers me that I only double-pegged it, so it's not good enough to post.

I was enjoying this morning more than I would have at the skatepark. The Dalles was a flat place and on this quiet morning it reminded me of rolling around Southwestern Ontario towns while casually hitting bumps and ledges.

Returning to the Oregon Motor Motel, breakfast was getting into an episode of Portlandia now, as I stopped at a coffee stand for an Americano and a protein puck.

Finally leaving The Dalles behind, I soon pulled off in Hood River as it was another Oregon town I knew. Unfortunately it was really touristy & not my scene.

After quickly snapping a picture of their Hood River County Courthouse, I went back down to the interstate.

After Hood River, almost everything you can see is either the Columbia River, Washington State or protected state parks and national wilderness to your left. Here the land drops off sharply to the river valley & with how lush and wet this area is, there are waterfalls all along this road (and trails leading to even more).

With 3 or 4 waterfalls accessible next to parking lots, we weren't about to hike a few miles to any of the waterfalls set inland (although I would have liked to). The above waterfall is Horsetail Falls, where I thought it was interesting that the stone for the curbs, staircases & ledges, all came from the deconstruction of the Rocky Butte Jail. This caused me to photograph the stones more than the waterfall, that is, until a family came along and looked at me like a weirdo.

Next up, we stopped at the insanely popular Multnomah Falls. For how much I like to note and mention the number of people at some of these places, Multnomah was so stunning that it overcame having to waddle and dash as if we were trying to move through a farmers' market.

In addition, the crowd had a good number of gorgeous tourists. I was particularly mesmerized with this one girl and I guess I was gawking more than I realized. She gave me a head nod and a discontented, laughing "hey" & I did that thing where you twist your hips to try to find the person hiding behind you. Nope, it was just me, not being as slick with the glances as I thought.

Horsetail Falls to Multnomah Falls is only a 5 minute drive and in another 20 minutes, our car climbed up the hill to the Vista House set upon Crown Point. Where the distances between cool stuff is greater out by The Dalles, this area by Multnomah Falls is packed with worthwhile stops.

The Vista House was built in 1918 as a rest stop/observatory for those travelling along the Columbia River Gorge. Once inside, you can reach a viewpoint that stands 733 feet (223m) above the river below.

The Columbia River Valley was living up to my high expectations. Having seen stunning pictures going into this trip, I found that even in the short drive & brief visit to accessible waterfalls, that this was as beautiful of an area as those pictures showed.

I easily added it to the list of Oregon areas that I'd like to spend more time visiting.

After the Vista House, it was easier to take the Historic Columbia River Highway instead of backtracking to I-84. This also would bring us past Corbett Country Market, a place I read about in one of the tourist pamphlets I'd grabbed along the way.

I don't know if I would have known to stop here otherwise, but it was a great little lunch spot. Quick, reasonably-priced and definitely had some history. My mac n' cheese with a sausage was perfect for quelling my midday hunger.

Driving into Portland, we found our accommodations and checked in. With rooms being pricey in Portland, we were staying in a renovated, built-in-1905 rooming house/hotel, where there was a fine pub downstairs and clean rooms upstairs. Our bunk bed room was $80, which is pretty good for a happening city like Portland.

With an hour's worth of walking to conquer this evening, we set off across the northern edge of downtown Portland. By now, we were thinking again about food, but we only found an understaffed, lame rooftop sports bar and other various poor choices amongst an ugly district that looked like a bunch of connected shipping containers. Eventually we came across a crepe place, but this was my final straw for crepes. For what always seems like a delicious idea, crepes are overrated. Maybe I just need more cheese & carbs in my food? But on the other hand, the crepe spot's bourbon cocktails were delicious and strong.

With some time still left before sunset and also being unimpressed with the crepe place, we left and stumbled upon Joe's Cellar. I loved the look of the outside & it actually felt like the Pacific Northwest, so we popped in for a beer. Along with the Windy River Lounge, Joe's Cellar ranked high on this trip. No one vibed us, the inside was dark and windowless, they had the game on & ancient booths lined the wall.

(Most of the reviews of Joe's Cellar lament NW Portland and its growing bro-culture with sterile, manufactured bars. I'm now even happier we stumbled upon the old, good dive.)

Leaving Joe's Cellar with a good glow in the evening light, there were only a few more blocks to cover to our destination - and up to this point, I hadn't given Shelloo any clues as to what we were doing. Then, sure enough, some random Balkan lady came up to us and asked if we were going to watch the swifts roost. I totally looked like John Wall in that "bruh" meme.

So yes, it happened to work out that we were in Portland during the fall Vaux's Swift migration. Every year, a group of Vaux's Swifts return from their breeding grounds in southern Alaska and BC/Alberta, to stop here and rest in this school chimney. They then continue migrating down to southern Central America and Venezuela.

As the swifts come every night around sundown, it has become quite the well-attended spectacle. Although the street woman ruined the surprise, the hundreds to maybe a thousand people and informational swift signs probably would've given it away. I couldn't believe how many people were interested in sitting on a hill and watching a flock of swifts circle and enter a chimney. (Maybe the Miami Marlins can put a chimney in their stadium so more people start attending games.)

The swift show was swift. For an hour, the odd single bird or pair of birds came and made a little circle to get people's hopes up, but then flew away. But once the whole flock decided to descend upon the chimney, little time was wasted in getting inside & hunkering down for the night.

Leaving Chapman Elementary, for some reason we decided we needed to reach 6000 calories today & went with delicious Indian food. Trying to walk some of that off, we then happened to go by Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers (soccer). They were playing a game in a couple of days, but sadly it had to be skipped because of something else. As we walked along and the 1926 stadium of arched entryways crowded the road instead of being surrounded by a sea of parking, it was reminiscent of the tight fit and excitement of Wrigley or Fenway. I very much wanted to see a game and wish the schedule would have worked out.

After that we walked for even longer, finding some hipster bars, trying Voodoo doughnuts and topping it off by finally settling on an awful, generic Irish pub after not finding much of anything. I had come to Portland for places like Joe's Cellar, not McGoolian's or whatever the fuck this place was called. We left after 1 pint to go stand at the sketchy main bus depot with tweakers and the arguing homeless. By the time we got back to our hotel, it was time for bed.

The next morning I was half thankful that we didn't find some excellent bar, as I had to get up before the skateboarders to get to Portland's famous, totally handmade Burnside Skatepark. (Although, as I write this, it's only Phillyside that has salty skateboarders, right?)

Anyway, it was pretty special to ride a place that was featured so prominently in one of my most formative videos growing up (Road Fools 2). As I pedalled and pedalled with my street ass, it was funny to try and get up the vert wall & think about how Rooftop casually did a running man footplant on the same wall.

(I rode for an hour and there was only one dude sleeping in his sleeping bag atop a quarterpipe and 1 skater that showed up right as I was leaving. 8am was easily early enough on a weekday, fyi.)

I could have rode Burnside until my arms fell off, but we had to get going. There was one last stop in Portland, one that Shelloo added to the itinerary, in that of St. Johns Bridge. I couldn't put up much argument either, when talking about a Gothic architecture bridge with bridge supports, pedestrian entryways and bridge tower gaps all in the shape of Gothic arches. It's so nice they featured it in the commercial for the 1988 Buick Regal.

Leaving Cathedral Park and St. Johns Bridge, the Columbia River-hugging road here was less scenic. A mix of houses, industry and a few small towns, the next major stop would be Astoria.

Continue to Part 4...


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< Older Update:
Bonavista Peninsula 2015

Older Update:
Oregon 2015, Part 2:
In Search of a Hardman


Newer Update:
Oregon 2015, Part 4:
The Lighthouses of Oregon >

1 - Swift Watch - Audubon Society of Portland
2 - Vista House History - Columbia River Gorge Vista House

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