If you lead an alternative lifestyle, Portland may be a better choice than San Francisco

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An abundance of walk/bike paths or lanes (even across bridges), and bike parking? Check. Plenty of public transportation? Check. Dedicated vegan and/or gluten-free restaurants and grocery stores? Check. RV parks and campgrounds? Check. Rentals that don’t require a six-figure income to afford? Check. Small-business friendly? Check.

Our trip from Warrenton to Portland was about 100 miles. I guess I fibbed a little bit when I said we were not going to Washington. We did drive through the southernmost part of Washington to get to Portland (it was the best route), but we didn’t stay in Washington.

While I filmed the drive over, we didn’t do any filming and only took pictures at one place. I felt like I needed a break from that and the ability to absorb everything. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and I took a mini-vacation by taking Monday and Tuesday off.

We didn’t even come close to seeing everything we would have liked. Unfortunately, we only were able to stay Saturday through Friday (that was all the park had, and it seemed like every other place we called was booked). But while we were there, we did see a lot. One thing that we noticed is that there seems to be more bicycle parking than car parking. This was a distinct advantage for us. It was also amazingly easy and safe to travel around. There are bike paths galore, and streets have signs everywhere with information about bike lanes, and how many minutes on bike it will take you to get to certain destinations. They also had a few places where a bike path dumped you out onto a street where you would probably want to turn left or go straight, so they put a break in the median just for bikes. They also had lanes where cars were not allowed to turn a certain direction, but bikes were. It felt like there were bike lanes on just about every major street that was wide enough for it, and places to lock up your bicycle on every corner (and the middle of the block too). Water fountains were also thoughtfully found near the bike parking. It felt very welcoming and a lot safer than riding around San Francisco.

Saturday:

After getting the RV settled, we hopped on our bikes and headed out to explore. Our first stop was one of the many “food truck pods” that you can find in Portland. These are basically plots of land with several food trucks situated on them permanently, and they frequently have seating as well. The pod we went to had two completely vegan trucks: Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ and Native Bowl. We ate at Homegrown Smoker.

Yes, I had the ability to eat out, even on my super-restrictive diet. I won’t lie and say that I adhered to it 100%, but close enough that I didn’t really suffer any stomach upset. I had the All American Burger on a gluten-free bun with a slice of Chao cheese. If you’ve never had some of this vegan cheese before, it looks just like sliced cheese, has the same texture, melts…it is the closest thing to cheese I have seen in a store. The burger was delish and completely filling.

Ryan ate the Combo Plate which included tempeh ribs, hush puppies, and BBQ soy curls, which he said tasted just like pulled pork.He enjoyed it and was thoroughly stuffed.

While we didn’t buy anything, we chatted up the guy at Native Bowl. Their food looked tasty and he was very helpful in educating us about soy curls. We didn’t get a chance to go back and try any, but it looked like they had several things we would have wanted to try.

We wandered around some more and had to stop in at a 100% vegan, gluten-free bakery called Back to Eden, which was actually a recommendation from our cashier/server at Homegrown. I have never been to one before, and you can imagine the smile on my face walking into that shop and knowing I could eat anything on the menu and not have to worry about cross-contamination or questioning the ingredients. I took home the last cinnamon roll they had in the case. I can’t even remember the last time I had a cinnamon roll that I didn’t have to make myself. I warmed it up at home and it was fantastic. You never would have known that it was gluten-free or vegan. They had so much stuff I would have loved to try, including sundaes, but my tummy was still full from Homegrown.

Sunday:

Once again we headed out to explore.  This time our travels took us to the Saturday Market (that also runs on Sundays), which takes up a humongous amount of space along a waterfront park. It was a lot of knick-knacks, clothes, accessories and not much in the way of produce. Honestly, those kinds of places are not really my thing. There were just so many booths there I felt like I was going to get whiplash trying to see everything. We’re not big on shopping (unless it’s for food) so after walking quickly through we went on our way.

Next on the list was an Oregon mainstay, Sizzle Pie. They have vegan options–and not just leaving off cheese and piling on veggies. They have vegan cheese and meat substitute toppings. I forget what exactly Ryan had, but it had some fake meat and jalapenos on it. I chose a seasonal option called Nectar Sector, which is described on the menu as “Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pepita Spread, Mandarin Oranges, Baco Bits, Tofu Cheese Dollops, a Thai Sweet Chili spiral and fresh Arugula.” It was yummy! See me trying new things? I’ve never done the vegan bacon bits before. I barely even noticed it was there.

After lunch we stopped at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This is the one spot I took pictures during our whole stay in Portland. It’s quite a beautiful place, and very peaceful to visit despite the bustling city surrounding it.

Monday:

I had the day off, so we started our day on the earlier side. It took an hour of biking to get to a local hospital to get my blood drawn, and we were starving after that, so we stopped at a place in the Pearl District called Los Gorditos. I honestly can’t remember what the name of my dish was called, but once again I stepped out of my comfort zone, because it included soy curls. They were cooked to the consistency of scrambled eggs with some seasoning that probably included garlic powder. Also on the plate were some greens, potatoes, rice, maybe some tofu and some beans (which I gave to Ryan). Ryan ordered a burrito, which he liked, but he took one look at my plate and was immediately jealous. They also have a fresh salsa bar and my meal included fresh, hand-made corn tortillas. It was delicious and so filling I had to take some home. It tasted just as good re-heated. =)

Next stop was VooDoo Doughnut, which is kind of the rock star of doughnut shops for that area. They have two locations. The Saturdday Market was right by the main location, so that was the one we chose. This place is so popular that there is apparently always a long line. So long that you may feel like you’re at Disneyland, because they have it cordoned off so you know where to stand. They don’t have gluten-free, though, so Ryan waited solo while I wandered around. He got one of each type of vegan doughnut they had on hand. He enjoyed those for the next several days.

We have been missing Whole Foods since we left the Bay Area, so this was on our list as well (I believe Portland has four, and they’re not small either). We loaded up on some hard-to-find favorites. We also wanted to visit a vegan cheese shop (All vegan. All cheese. Yum.) but unfortunately they were closed and also had weird hours so we did not make it there during our trip. Probably for the best as I may have ended up spending a small fortune.

Tuesday – Friday:

I was off on Tuesday as well, but opted to stay home. Our site had a picnic table and it was nice outside, so I spent the morning and part of the afternoon working on a painting I promised a friend long ago. I haven’t painted in years–there really wasn’t any room in Greenbrae. It was nice, because when I’m painting I tend to be able to shut off the rest of my brain and just relax.

The rest of our stay was super stinkin’ hot, except for the mornings when I was working. Unfortunately the only other outings were on foot, in early evening, to the shopping center across the street, to buy some foot at Target, go to the craft store for some paint supplies and Home Depot for some RV-related stuff. Friday morning I did some work while Ryan packed up and then we hit the road.

Despite the heat, we really enjoyed our stay in Portland and hope to go back again for a longer stay. When it isn’t so hot.

I’ll leave you with a quick video showing the road between Warrenton and Portland.

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