Sunday, February 26, 2012

Visit Portland in the middle of rainy February


I love how life takes you on unexpected twists and turns. Things never usually turn out according to plan, but this isn’t a bad thing, because the unexpected is what makes life so magical and mysterious. Making a wrong turn on a journey can often lead to the meeting of new lifelong friends, the discovery of amazing places and sights, or adventures that turn into cherished stories. I have literally hundreds of items on my Travel Bucket List that I am saving my pennies and dimes to accomplish, but ironically my most recent expedition was to a place not listed, nor one that I had ever thought to list.

This year, my school received a project grant to explore more deeply the effects of technology and 21st Century Skills on student learning. I was given the temporary position of Technology Integration Facilitator, a “tech coach” if you will, to assist my colleagues in building up an understanding of modern literacies and to assist them in integrating technology-based inquiry projects. As part of this, I have been required to attend as many technology conventions, sessions, and meetings as possible. One such event was held in Portland last weekend, and so I found myself traveling to Portland in February to learn about iPad apps and Google Docs.

I’m sure not many people in this world have “Visit Portland during the middle of rainy February” on their travel bucket lists, but there I was, and I was determined to make it an adventure, as always.

Portland on a gloomy February day.

Because of the technology conference (which was fabulous, by the way - check out the hashtag #itsc12 on Twitter if you are interested in what went on there), I wasn’t able to do a great deal of exploring, but my colleagues and I did have a chance to explore on Sunday and early Monday morning. The weather held out while we did our tourist bit, which was nice.

Our first stop was to see the largest independently run book store in the world: Powell’s City of Books, which covers a full city block (and more if you count the other book stores that branch off from the main store). There are four stories inside of Powell’s City of Books, organized into color-coded rooms by topic and style. The store hypothesizes that it carries over 4 million books (and I believe it) and bragged that it often purchases up to 3000 used books PER DAY. That, my friends, is a lot of books! I literally got lost inside the bookstore and couldn’t find my colleagues for about half an hour. Note to all of you who are interested in visiting Powell’s - make a plan of attack, grab a store map, and don’t waver from the plan lest you never see your friends or family members again.

Powell's City of Books is like a never-ending maze of books - I loved it!

Another thing that Portland is quite well-known for is its breweries. Portland, it could be said, is the beer capital of the U.S.A. On every block, it seemed, there was a restaurant that boasted its own brewery facilities. I was determined to scratch “Tour a beer brewery” off my bucket list during the course of this trip, but alas, it was not to be. Most of the restaurants only had small internal breweries that were closed to the public, and their larger breweries were located in smaller towns in the surrounding area of Portland.

Sampling some brewskis at a local Portland brewery, Rogue Brewery

As we only had three days in Portland, it wasn’t possible to drive out to tour one. However, there is no reason to cry over spilled beer, and we instead satisfied ourselves with visiting several city breweries and just trying the sample platters. We tried the Rock Bottom Brewery (their beer was good, but their lobster and shrimp tacos were even better!) and the Deschutes Brewery. Our favorite site was the Rogue Brewery, which made a great IPA and a really disgusting yet fascinating Maple Bacon Beer.

The Maple-Bacon beer that I found totally disgusting...

Where did this idea for such a strange concoction come from, you ask? The Maple Bacon trend wasn’t limited to the Rogue Brewery. Rogue stole (borrowed? shared?) the idea with Portland’s most successful and trendy doughnut shop, Voodoo Doughnuts. This place was insane!

Voodoo Doughnuts was a hot commodity when we were in Portland.

When we first tried to visit Voodoo Doughnuts on Sunday afternoon, the line-up to get into the shop wrapped around the block. We questioned some customers who had just emerged from the store, and they claimed they had been waiting in line for over an hour. So we decided not to visit that day, to my disappointment.

The crazy long line-up to access Voodoo Doughnuts.

I’d read about the Voodoo Doughnut shop online, and my neighbor Jana had insisted I try it. The store boasts such doughnuts as the Maple Bacon Bar, the Dirty Snowball, Captain my Captain (with Cap’n Crunch cereal), Triple Chocolate Penetration (with Coco Puffs), and the heart-attack-waiting-to-happen Memphis Mafia. There are more ‘inspirational’ names, but they have a distinctly adult theme, and I’d like to keep this blog a family-friendly site! If you are curious, check out their website (with a slogan like “The magic is in the hole!”, you can’t be surprised by some of the names of the confections).

A selection of delicious gourmet doughnuts. Yes, there is a maple bacon one there, too...

We did go back late Monday night at 11 p.m. and found we only had to wait in line for 20 minutes rather than an hour. I purchased the Triple Chocolate Penetration and the No Name doughnut (with chocolate, Rice Krispies, and a drizzle of peanut butter). They were so delicious - I can’t even begin to describe it! It is probably good I don’t live in Portland, or I’d be very fat from eating doughnuts every day! But they sure were a sweet topping on this unexpected visit to Portland during the middle of rainy February!