American Road Trip

In 2014, I drove from Vancouver to San Francisco with my best friends

Driving Through Oregon

We departed Seattle in the morning for our second destination, Portland! It’s only a 2.5 hour drive so we arrived just in time to head into the city centre to check out some food carts for lunch. There’s more than 700 international food carts located all over the city, so there was lots of selection to choose from. Gill, Mel, and Karen all had gourmet grilled cheese and had the BEST falafel I’ve ever had in my whole life (seriously, I’m still dreaming about it)!

Our first impression of Portland is that it is one of the most chill cities. It’s Beerfest this weekend and since Portland has more microbreweries per capita than any other city in the world, there were a lot of people visiting. But even though the city is flooded with tourists attending Beerfest, it still felt completely relaxed. It’s so easygoing that after spending the day there, Mel decided it was her favourite city she’d ever visited!

The first attraction we hit up was Powell’s Bookstore, which ended up being everyone’s favourite part of Portland. Powell’s is the largest new and second hand bookstore in the world, and as an avid reader it was a dream! The whole building is stacked to the ceiling with books and there’s several different rooms making up the bookstore – we spent an hour and a half wondering from the orange room to the rose room to the gold room. There were so many books that we all left with a full bag!

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After Powell’s we walked to Portland’s second largest attraction (or perhaps biggest attraction for some people), Voodoo Doughnuts! This famous doughnut shop had a lineup out the door to try some of the tastiest and most original doughnut creations. Between us we sampled the ‘Portland Cream’, ‘Maple Crueller’, ‘Dirt Doughnut’ (covered with crushed Oreos), and the ‘Miami Viceberry’! They did not disappoint and were easily the best doughnuts we’ve ever had!

We had a bit of trouble figuring out what the best Portland landmarks were, so we decided to take a walking your with a local in the late afternoon. It was a great decision and we learned so many interesting things about the city! Portland is known for being chill and for being weird. The official slogan of Portland is “keep Portland weird” and the more we learned about its eccentric past the more appropriate it seemed. Only 40% of people living in Portland actually grew up in Oregon. The rare individuals that actually grow up in Oregon are referred to as Unicorns because they’re almost like a mythical species. The downside to having so many people moving into the city though is that Portland currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the country (second only to Detroit). We found this easy to believe as we saw a lot of homeless people around and it explains the high number of food carts that have popped up in the city as many people are forced to start their own business in order to sustain their livelihoods (the number of carts increased from 70 to 700 in 2009).

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However, we also learned many wonderful things about how green and sustainable of a city Portland is. They’ve had a global warming city plan since 1992, they heavily promote biking, they founded the car sharing industry, and they currently divert 66% of their waste out of landfills with recycling and composting programs (Vancouver is at 58%). We also learned that Portland is home to a large number of haunted buildings, as well as the worlds largest and smallest city parks! Overall, it was an interesting and educational tour and we loved the opportunity to learn a little more about this unique city.

We’ve now departed Portland, but as we drove east across the mountains we discovered that the rest of Oregon is just as interesting and beautiful! We hit the long driving stretch of our trip as we made our way towards California and we had an incredibly scenic drive through Oregon. We drove through dense, old growth forest, past snow peaked mountains, across golden desert plains, and over ancient volcanic lava flats. We spent a whole day driving through Oregon, but we kept the trip interesting with a stop at the ‘Lava Lands Visitor Center’ to check out an old volcano and see the rock lava flows that still descend from the volcano. We drove to the top of the volcano, or ‘lava butte’ and I found it really interesting because you could see how the lava had wiped out every living thing and that the tree line quickly picked up again at the edge of the lava flow.

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We also stopped into Crater Lake National Park and enjoyed incredible views on the lake which now fills the crater of a gigantic ancient volcano. It’s the deepest lake in the United States – we hiked up to a tower called ‘The Watchman’ to get an even better view of the stunning mountain vista. Crater Lake is one of many mountains and the backdrop of the mountains surrounding Crater Lake were just as jaw dropping as the lake itself!

We’ll spend a night in Southern Oregon before crossing the border into California and making our way to South Lake Tahoe. Here’s Gill’s next video blog:

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The Road Trip Begins. First Stop: Seattle

The road trip has officially begun! The group enjoyed one last day in Vancouver before catching the night bus to Seattle. We decided to just drive one way to San Francisco, so we took the bus to Seattle where we picked up our rental car.

The group spent the last day in Vancouver at Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s located at the base of the mountains in North Vancouver and features a huge swinging bridge across the river gorge, as well as a trail of platforms and bridges up in the trees. It was a crowded day, but a good opportunity to get a little bit outside the city and enjoy the giant trees! The evening was spent on the bus to Seattle where we played a spirited game of Harry Potter 20 Questions until something went wrong in the bathroom at the back of the bus and we spent the last 20 minutes of the trip holding our noses from the smell!

Fortunately things quickly improved the next day with a full day of exploring in Seattle. We started off at Pike Place Market, exploring the eclectic collection of shops that make up the market. Pike Place is arguably Seattle’s biggest attraction after the Space Needle – my favourite shops included this one that specialized specifically in TV and movie memorabilia (they have a whole aisle of just movie scripts) and a pet shop featuring items starring any breed of cat or dog you can imagine! Gills favourite purchase was a pair of socks with pomeranians on them and I was very tempted to buy coasters with my favourite breeds on them!

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After exhausting the market, we made our way along the waterfront towards Seattle center to see the EMP Museum and the Space Needle. We were pleasantly surprised to find the place in full swing celebrating the Seafair when we arrived! Apparently Seattle hosts the Seafair every year to celebrate the warm weather and summer season. There were tons of tents set up giving out free stuff and there was performers in the middle of the square. We made the most of it and enjoyed free brownies and granola bars while watching the most bedazzled troupe of dancers! It turns out the entire event was sponsored by Alaskan Airlines and we had a good laugh at the hats they were handing out!

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The EMP Museum proved to be everyone’s favourite part of the day and we all agreed it was the best value for money. The museum is housed in this huge multicoloured metal building and stands for the “Experience Music Project”. It had exhibits on music, sci-fi, and pop culture. Mel’s favourite exhibit was the sci-fi exhibit, but the rest of us favoured Fantasyland. It highlighted some of our favourite films and movies, including Harry Potter, the Wizard of Oz, and The Princess Bride! The museum had some great exhibits on popular artists to come out of the Northwest, as well as an exhibit on music videos.

We finished off the afternoon with a bit of shopping and went to the top of the Space Needle in the evening. It was a beautifully clear day, so we had a great view of Seattle with the scenic Mount Rainier in the background. Overall it was a very busy day, but we feel like we accomplished a lot. We finished with an enjoyable walk back to the train as the Seafair Parade serenaded us with lively music one block over!

Check out Gill’s second vlog summarizing our last day in Vancouver and our day in Seattle. Next stop: Portland!

 

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Rain for Days: A Whirlwind Tour of Vancouver

It’s been an adventurous start to the trip for Melissa, Gill, and Karen! Unfortunately for me, while they’ve been out exploring Vancouver, I’ve been working, but I am now officially on vacation! The trip had a bit of rocky start – Gill and Mel got detained in Montreal for several hours on their way here and as a a result of having to get up at 4am (11:30pm PST), they were exhausted (and starving) when they finally arrived in Vancouver 14 hours later.

There was no time for rest though as we had already purchased tickets to see the Shrek Musical outside at Theatre Under The Stars in Stanley Park! In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best idea to go see a show the same day everyone arrived, but we were optimistic about it! Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits as we made our way to the Park and at first we viewed the free poncho’s that were provided for the show as a novelty. But as the show started, the drizzle turned to rain, and the rain turned to heavy rain and before we knew it, it was pouring! The musical was quite good, but I can’t lie, watching anything in the pouring rain is pretty miserable. When we heard the sound of distant thunder just before intermission, we decided we’d had enough. We grabbed our free hot chocolates and decided to head for home.

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Fortunately, the second day in Vancouver was a huge improvement over the first and included a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium, a bike ride in Stanley Park, a walk around the downtown waterfront, and shopping on Granville Street and Granville Island! The group started the day with the Aquarium, which everyone enjoyed, but thus far it seems Gill and Mel have been plagued by whiny children. They were forced to tolerate a screaming child kicking the back of their seats on their 6 hour flight to Vancouver and then at the Aquarium they had to navigate the hoards of children’s camps that frequent the Aquarium in the summer. Although an educational summer camp on marine life might benefit Gill who mistakenly refers to the porpoises at the Aquarium as “portopussies”!

After a disappointing lunch of “creamy” spinach soup (it was so terrible I was forced to listen to a detailed description of just how awful it was), the day picked up with a bike ride through Stanley Park along the seawall. I’m told this was the highlight of the day and everyone was enamoured of their bright green rental bikes! The photos are courtesy of Melissa’s instagram account, but judging by Karen’s ability to text and ride in these photos, we think she might be after Mel’s title of social media guru and internet junkie!

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The day continued with a trip to the waterfront in downtown Vancouver where you can take pictures with the Olympic Cauldron and this giant pixilated whale of a piece of art! I finally joined up with everyone at Granville Island and we did a little bit more exploring before heading back to my house for an earlier night. Since we won’t be together for our birthdays this year, we had a little birthday celebration to finish off the night!

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But the real treat for this blog post is the youtube video below! Gill has been hard at work capturing our trip in video format – you should really be impressed because she editted this entire video on her iPhone! Enjoy!

 

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