We left our campground outside of Astoria in the rain (again) and drove to 3 Cups Coffee for a snack: more great coffee, and the best savory sausage tomato scone you could imagine! Debated a trip over the Astoria-Megler Bridge to see Ilwaco on the WA side of the Columbia River and to visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center at North Head, but the rain depressed our adventurous instincts so we pointed the bow towards our next destination, Portland OR, about a two hour drive along the Columbia River. This route also put us on I-5 for a short distance, which was a little bit disappointing since we had so far driven the entire length of the Pacific Coast from Santa Monica to Astoria without ever getting on I-5. At least we were using it only to backtrack to the south. We could have taken the mountain road (Route 26), but we were a little bit done with mountain roads in the pouring rain.
We had investigated some of the state park campgrounds near Portland, but they were farther out than we hoped for, as this was to be a brief explore-the-city visit. As it turned out, one was not yet open for the season (Milo McIver State Park) and the other had major road construction within the campground (Champoeg State Heritage Area). So we threw a dart at the dartboard of independent RV parks nearest to Portland and ended up at the Jantzen Beach RV Park on Hayden Island, which, although located at the entrance to a fairly large mobile home under the airport approach, and in an area of commercial sprawl, turned out to be perfectly acceptable for our purposes. Our site was clean and paved, and far enough away from neighboring sites to have plenty of fresh air. As a bonus, few of the surrounding sites were actually occupied. The laundry and shower facilities were excellent. Thumbs up for off-season travel (except for the rain).
The drive to Portland was interesting mainly for the opportunity to get a glimpse of what the Columbia River is all about. Broad, shallow, bordered either by low wet fields or steep, rugged hillsides, and thick with major shipping, especially in the ports like Longview where timber was piled high for miles, awaiting a trip out the river to ports around the world.
We were settled into our campground by mid-day, when we discovered we had a leak in the front end of the Bambi. More on that later, except to say that Bruce spent the afternoon chasing down parts and supplies and making the repair while I did laundry. Miraculously, there was an Airstream dealer nearby which simplified the project immensely. A Bambi Day. By the time he was done it was late, and neither of us had the energy to dive into a strange city on a Saturday night with no advance guidance, so we found a local dive amidst the sprawl and called it an early evening.
The next morning, Sunday, we continued with Bambi projects. Both the truck and the Airstream were filthy from the long, wet miles on the road so Bruce dove into washing and detailing. I worked on the inside and caught up with generic domestic backlog.
By noon we were ready to stretch our legs. We had planned this visit so we could take advantage of the one day in the upcoming seven that had no rain in the forecast, which would allow us to wander around Portland without getting soaked. Planning pays off: it was a beautiful afternoon. Not full-sun, but at least it was 60-ish, and not raining. We truly appreciated the clear, clean dry air. And the pups did too. Perfect for hiking around the city.
We had good fun in Portland. The dogs tagged along and we found Portland to be enthusiastically dog-friendly. As our limited travel wardrobes were feeling threadbare, we interspersed wandering around neighborhoods with shopping in the Pearl District and NW 23rd Street. Bruce tested out some of the “furniture” on display at the Design Within Reach gallery and found it to be excellent fun.
After exhausting our credit cards buying clothing we enjoyed a thirst quencher at the On Deck Sports Bar, and discovered that in Portland even dive sports bars can have excellent food.
Portland appears to have a vibrant food scene, but after returning to our camp site and feeding the dogs, both of us were in the mood for something simple without the hassle of trying to park a large truck in an unknown city.
Bruce found Heathen Brewing Feral Pub, that turned out to be an excellent brew pub across the Columbia River and state line in Vancouver, Washington. With the help of an enthusiastic bartender Bruce plowed through a variety of excellent local brews and we had great rapor with fellow patrons. The food was first rate pub grub, and we were happy. Then it was home to the Bambi for a good night’s rest.