May flew by; now it's time for me to leave Portland and return to the east coast.
Before I talk about that upcoming journey, I thought I'd reflect on the vandwelling experience of the past 40 or so days in Portland. What did I do? How expensive was it? and so forth....
As I reported in my 2 earlier Portland posts, I found a space to park overnight, discovered a source of very cheap hot-food, and joined a local gym to shower. Those 3 were the game-changers as far as the experience being comfortable or rough. It wasn't rough at all. It was comfortable; in fact, it was downright luxorious.
Getting to shower everyday made me feel civilized. The gym was open 5 am to 10 pm which was good enough for me to get in there once a day. I exercised pretty hard and got back into running shape. I've gained weight on this trip from the beer, calorie-rich food, endless sitting, and lack of exercise, so it was really refreshing to kick my ass again. This gym was Loprinzi's Gym, down near 41st and Division.
In general, I avoided spending time in the van. One, it was hot in there during the day, and two, there was a big beautiful city outside; I didn't want to lurk in the dark. I used the bathrooms at the gym or coffee shop and swore off the Port-a-Potti in the van. I'd really only use the van for sleeping, then come morning get the hell out of there.
Nights in the van were fine. The temperature usually dropped to the 50s so I was comfortable. Of course in an urban area you get disturbances such as motorcycles, trucks, bums wheeling rattly shopping carts etc., but that's OK. I wore an eye-mask to block out the glow from street lights.
Discovering super-cheap hot food at Fred Meyer's every night meant I didn't have to deal with cooking in the van. Cooking in the van can be fun and it's usually more cost-effective, but it creates a lot of waste water. And when you're parked indefinitely in an urban area, getting rid of that waste water is tricky! I don't like dumping on the street. It's offensive, it's ugly, and it can get you in trouble.
How cheap was the Fred Meyer's special? Well, typically, if I eat out, even just buying a sandwich, is 3 - 10x more expensive than cooking rice and beans in the van. I estimated that a standard van-cooked rice/beans meal came out to approximately $1.50, maybe less. The can of beans is around $1, then you factor in the cents for the helping of rice and the propane to heat it. But by hitting up Fred Meyer's every night at 9 PM when they slash the hot-food prices by 50%, I could get more food for less than $1.50. No mess, no prep. And the food wasn't all that bad, either.
I did have to buy coffee everyday in order to sit in a coffee shop to type. That bothered me. But I didn't want to hang out in the van; I wanted to sit somewhere with cool air, electricity, bathrooms, and so on. And there weren't any viable libraries in my neighborhood. So I spent more at coffee shops than I liked to spend. A cup of coffee is anywhere from $1.25 to $1.75 and that's for their stale-ass house brew. Then it's .50 cents a refill, or maybe free refills if it's a larger shop. That adds up. I much prefer brewing my own coffee but it was a sacrifice. I cringed every time I forked over that $1.25...
What else... entertainment was cheap too. I'm entertained by browsing bookstores and there's Powell's (and it's mini-versions) in Portland. Many an evenings were spent trolling the bookshelves. Portland also has some good discount movie theaters and I got to attend some cool "retro" screenings including a splendid showing of THE RUNNING MAN (in case you're unfamiliar, it's a 1980s sci-fi film in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is trapped in a gameshow. it's great, and seeing it on the big screen, surrounded by like-minded fans who cheered every time the Governator said something ridiculous, was very fun).
The first few weeks, I was really excited by the bar scene, especially on Hawthorne. I went there every night. But that got old and also costly. A pint of tap beer was usually $3 - $4. A tall-boy of Pabst was $2 to $2.50. And Pabst makes me feel like an alien is about to hatch from my stomach so I generally avoid that crap.
So toward the end of my stay I changed the alcohol-getting ritual. I'd buy a tall-boy at the drugstore. A tall-boy of Tecate or Budweiser - both totally tolerable beers - was around $1.50. I'd take it back to the van, kick off my shoes, put on NPR, and drink it in there like a true wino. This was my little decompression ritual at the end of the day after typing for 8-10 hours. Then once the buzz faded I'd get up and walk over to Fred Meyer's and join the crowd of young people, bums, and hippies who arrive for the hot-food happy hour.
I benefited from arriving in Portland just as the rain stopped and summer began. It's been dry and sunny here the past 2 weeks.
I guess that's it. I had a lot of fun here and I hope to return someday.
Now, I'm driving back east. This time I'm taking the direct route --- straight mind-numbing interstates. No wandering, no exploring, etc. On the east coast I'm going to reconnect with friends and family, then in July take a Wilderness First Responder Course in North Carolina. And after that, I don't know...
I'll try to post from some point on my cross-country express trip. Thanks for reading!
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