The Oregon territory

In an account such as this one, it’s important to change the names to protect … well, myself, I suppose. I’m traveling with a middle-aged woman (my spouse/partner/wife/mutual tormentor) and two teenage girls, technically my genetic offspring. The oldest, whom I’ll call Violet, never wanted to leave home in the first place and she travels with us as a skeptic — go ahead, Mom and Dad, and prove to me this is worth the big fat mess it has made of my life. The youngest, let’s call her Carlotta, takes a different tack. She had made it known in the last few days that her future will feature much and varied international travel, much more memorable than our silly little dash to Vancouver and back. So Carlotta has cultivated a kind of jaded it’s-okay-for-now kind of boredom with our trip.

She is, though, for the record, largely a traveling neophyte, so even the vaguely dissociative experiences of traveling through neighboring states are, to my soon-to-be-jet-setting daughter, new and bizarre. She was with me, in fact, when some dude in Eugene in a day-glo plastic vest told me that pumping my own gas is against the law in Oregon, subject to a $1,500 fine. I smirked at the guy, until he repeated it, and a woman in the next car, who was not pumping her gas, dished me off a gesture of pity for being so clueless and … Californian.

In Portland, a local swell who was otherwise a really nice guy couldn’t help cracking on those of us benighted souls from California. Portlanders, he claimed on an eerie silently Sunday morning in the streets of downtown Portland, never honk their horns. If you hear a honking horn, it must be a Californian. Ha, ha. Similar swipes went in the direction of Seattle and Canada.

Does Portland have an inferiority complex when it comes to its more brash West Coast hot spots? If so, it really doesn’t need to. Portland is a lovely city, sure. But it’s also an enlightened one, diving headlong into a green future while other cities are merely sticking a toe in the water. “Livability” sounds like a riff on a beer ad, but it’s a real concept in clean, comfortable Portland. Perhaps I’m being a bit defensive, but Portland’s sheer grooviness is a kind of rebuke to the dashed promise of California. There’s nothing like a visit to Oregon to deflate a Californian’s sense of self. Smugness, it seems, is our newest export, and like most things, it grows better in Oregon.


6 thoughts on “The Oregon territory

  1. Pingback: The Oregon territory |

  2. Weird, I just spent a week traveling in Oregon with California plates and I never heard an anti-California comment. In fact, we saw a marquis which said, “Thank You for Traveling”.

    The gas thing is odd, but I adapted quickly!

  3. this is pretty observant about Portland. I have lived here for two years after living in Santa Cruz my whole life. I am really pleased with its differences; people are nice, take it slow, and are sincere. SCians think they have this, but from here it just seems false.

  4. We took a road trip to Seattle by way of Medford, Eugene, and Portland a few years ago, and were similarly taken by the Oregonias and their wonderful State. But we likewise didn’t appreciate not being able to pump our own gas, and were not amused to hear so many people saying horrible things about California and Californians. One thing we noticed though, is that the rudest comments tended to come from former Californians, who were up to their eyeballs in self-congratulation and self-justification. It turns out that many of THEM had first come to California from somewhere else, stayed in our State long enough to make some money and vote for some “progressive” legislators and laws, and then took off for greener pastures once they perceived the State as “spoiled.” I have come to think of such transients as locusts. Will they do the same thing to Oregon? We’ll see.

    We made it a point to use the public transit system (buses and light-rail) while we were in Portland. They have a pretty good system, but it seems to cost Oregonians a lot — too much in my opinion, for the benefit received. Based on our experience, we didn’t think we could do without a car, if for any reason we had to move to Portland, but we like the city a lot and hope to return someday.

    One thing that struck us right away, when we crossed the State line into Oregon, was that the condition of the roads instantaneously improved. Did you find the same? You could close your eyes and HEAR when crossing into Oregon or (to our regret during the return trip) when coming back over the State line into California. For the most part, the roads here have only deteriorated since then. What does Arnold do with all that tax money we keep sending him, anyway?

  5. You have to go to Mt. St. Helens on your way north. You actually get there right off I-5. Words can’t describe the whole blast area and the visitor’s center is phenomenal.
    You should actually go to Mt. Rainier – the flowers are blooming for the last 3 weeks of August. There is a beautiful hike that you can take out of the upper parking lot (I’ve forgotten what they call that!) area. Awesome! Snow covers the ground usually the first week of September.
    You must go to the top of the Space Needle (have dinner there – it’s fun) during the day. The view is spectacular. On a good day (?) you will get the most fabulous view of Seattle and beyond and Mt. Rainier.
    I live in Santa Cruz, but grew up in Washington. I love it up there.
    Maryfaith Moon

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