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Lions and Tigers and Hash, Oh My!

Tuesday 12 October 2010

So, day four in Portland.

It’s a sad day, sort of; we have to leave. But there’s time for one more meal (late risers, remember?) and some tourist stuff. So off we go on the 15 bus again, out to stop 2608, to Jam on Hawthorne, another highly recommended breakfast/lunch spot in SE. They are noted for their corned beef hash, soaked in beer before being grilled.

The greeting is a little NYC–put your name on the menu, grab a cup of coffee from the carafes outside or a glass of water from the jug inside, and have a seat outside. The pre-seating service may be brusque just because they are swamped inside. Fortunately, we were in Portland Weather Nirvana, so we walked around the block (or two) while we waited. It’s a neat, funky little area. We saw a house with rabbit pens out front, and a number of big houses that had been turned into apartments. It reminded me a lot of some of the areas near CMU in Pittsburgh.

Seated, ordered. Admiring the really cool giant paintings on one wall, with a very 30’s Metropolis feel to them. One was of a giant robot who looked like something for one of those fighting robot competitions. If they ship, I may have to give them a call…

Anyway, food. I did the corned beef hash and a Coke; herself did her usual eggs, bacon, and toast. The toast was excellent, as was the jam. The hash had great texture and taste, with enough salt to make the Coke a perfect accompaniment. Bacon was properly well-done crisp.

So we have a few hours to kill (late flight out). Now what?

I know! Let’s go to the zoo!

No, really. The Oregon Zoo is almost in downtown Portland; it’s about a ten-minute ride on the Max train from downtown.

Oh, and they have trains. Several, really, on a long loop from the Zoo up to the Rose Gardens, a four-mile loop that takes about half an hour round trip.

Did I mention that they have a steam train? That only runs on certain dates, among which is Labor Day weekend? And we were there on the last day of Labor Day weekend?

So, naturally we were in line for the train. But which one would we get–the Oregon Express, which sort of looks like a boat from the Jungle Cruise morphed into a train? How about the Zooliner, a replica of the 1958 Aerotrain?

No, the best: the “Oregon” steam train, built for the 1959 Oregon State Centennial. This is a real oil-burning steam train, a scale replica of a 4-4-0, a classic American train of the 1800s. This was like finding the Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar for a railfan like me.

Oh, yeah, there were lots of animals. The Oregon Zoo is one of the “new” types of zoos, with all of the areas where visitors wander landscaped and decorated appropriate to the creatures on display. Given its proximity to downtown, any visit to Portland should include a visit to the zoo.

So we take the Max back to the hotel, get our bags, and grab the Max again out to the airport. On the way in, we had been hesitant to take the train from the airport to downtown. But it’s so convenient to downtown, and so much less expensive, that it is the best way to get  to or from the airport if you are anywhere near Max.

So that was it. A pleasant flight back to SJC and our adventure was over.

Would we do it again? You betcha. I’d again try to go again in the summer or fall, to miss the worst of the (rumored) gloomy weather, but we’d definitely go despite the weather.

What would we do again? The Original and Pine State Biscuits, for sure. Heathman Hotel, probably, for its convenience and friendly staff. Park Kitchen, yes, although I might try other fine dining restaurants for variety.  Voodoo Doughnuts, maybe/maybe not, but highly recommended if you’ve never been. Apizza Scholls, probably not. Portland City Grill for bar snacks and drinks, definitely yes. Powell’s, maybe, again recommended if you’ve never been. Jam on Hawthorne, yes if we’re otherwise nearby. Hippo Hardware, big yes. And TriMet Transit will definitely be our preferred mode of transportation.

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