Portland, OR

This post is a little different than the usual. The course of my trip has changed. I've parked in Portland, OR and I plan to stay here for another few weeks.

This was a long time coming. Let me explain. In 'Travels With Charley', John Steinbeck's novel about traveling the country in a truck camper, he notes how at one point, without warning or explanation, he stops "seeing". No matter how beautiful or interesting the world is around him, he's done. Done, done, done. It's not a choice but an irrevocable mental state brought on by, simply, seeing too much for too long. He's burnt-out. And he's sad about it. But he accepts it, eventually, and steers the camper around and drives back to his home in NY. (It's an amazing, sweet, hilarious novel about road-tripping... I highly recommend it).

Anyway, that's how I've felt for a while. In fact, I'd say my "seeing" stopped after I left Slab City in southern California way back in February. I can't explain why, but everything after that felt a little flat, a little drab, a little lifeless. Locations of exceptional beauty, such as Death Valley, just made me feel tired as I drove through them, whereas earlier in my trip, I was thrilled by comparitively insignificant and mild scenes.

So, I've stopped. It seems senseless to continue driving when your heart isn't in it. It's almost worse to visit a place like Death Valley and not appreciate it, than to not visit it at all and save it for a time in the future when I can "see" again.

Portland has proven to be a fine place for parking the van. First, it's very, very easy to find a place to park overnight on the street without being harassed, and many others are doing it, so you're not a freak. There's campervans and RVS and trailers all over the place. Second, it's a small, pedestrian-friendly city, so I can get around and do stuff without having to move the van.

My brother lives in Portland, so I've been able to spend time with him. For the past week I've been parked in a little neighborhood near a little family-owned gym. I joined the gym (month membership: $40, no sign-up fees!) to exercise and to have shower/bathroom access. Being able to shower everyday seems to bet the key for me not to go crazy. I go in there every morning, exercise, use the bathroom, and shower.

The pacific northwest is coffee-crazy so there's cafes on every corner. I've been going to a cafe a block from my van and using it for internet and to power my computer. I'd prefer a library (libraries don't expect you to buy anything and are quieter) but weirdly there are only 2 libraries in this neighborhood, and neither of them have desks!

At night, there's many bars and movie theaters, as well as some nice walks. Powell's Bookstore, the biggest used book store IN THE WORLD, is just over the Burnside Bridge.

My only complaint at this point is the precipitation. Portland has so far been as rainy as everyone warned me it would be. Rain comes every day, many times a day, often with no warning. Of course, the mentality toward rain is totally different here than on the east coast. Portlanders just walk around in the rain without umbrellas or raincoats. They don't give a shit. From a van-dwelling perspective, it's difficult for me to keep the interior of the van dry because I have to keep the windows closed all the time. My gym clothes are always still a little cold and wet the next day when I put them on. Oh well....

I'll probably do another update about vandwelling in Portland, complete with pictures, in a week or two. Thanks for reading!


Thomas Reuben said...

Hey man, great writing. You haven't stopped "seeing," but rather are seeing more, more of what matters. At least that how it looks on this end.
When I first started following your blog, couple months ago, I was planning on getting a van such as you and traveling across the country. I was very excited about it. It was my dream. I figured I'd finally found what I wanted. But things suddenly changed, due to a loss experienced, and I began "seeing" things differently, such as you. Now, I'm about to travel from New York to California by bicycle. I will be blogging the whole way. I'd love to have you follow.

The Traveler said...

I'm seriously thinking about relocating my van to Portland for a while.. You like it out there? Definitely post some pics! I've never been there (yet).

Don said...

I'm another fan of your blog and hope that you keep it up. I also love Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie". I must have read it three or four times.

I think you are doing the right thing taking a break from the road. When every day is a new experience, isn't it reasonable to grow blase? Of course! Give yourself a little time to relax and reflect; you'll go on traveling, refreshed, when you are ready.

But don't stop blogging. Hearing about Portland, coffee and the public library will keep your fans reading. I've lived in the Pacific NW - if you don't do it in the rain, you'll never go outside!

Take care.

MsBelinda said...

Sometimes we all need a break to be able to see things in a different light.

I am glad you found a place you like and that your brother lives there helps a lot too.

Please keep on blogging about life in Portland. Best of luck to you.

cmhennessey said...

i'm so excited to know that you read steinbeck and liked it. did i make you read tortilla flat?