June 26, 2006

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Filed under: Portland — Tom @ 11:58 am

I thought I’d take a chance to talk about what I like about Portland before people think that I hate it here.

Let’s be clear — I love Portland. This has been a great move and I’m totally happy with the decision to come here.

Ten reasons I’m glad to be here:

  1. Fantastic motorcycle riding. Nearby mountains, hilly terrain, lots of curvy roads surrounding by beautiful country. I’m looking forward to doing some offroad riding when I can.
  2. No sales tax! The price is what it is.
  3. You can afford to buy a house in the city.
  4. It’s super easy to get around. Despite all my complaining about how people drive, you don’t have to get stuck in traffic like you do in Chicago. (There are some notable exceptions to this, but my first trip from where I’m staying to a downtown meeting took six minutes.)
  5. The weather is flawless in the summer. Yes, I know the rain’s gonna come but right now it is gorgeous.
  6. A recycling program that looks to have very high participation. Everyone seems to be doing it. (Mayor Daley, get off your ass and get something set up in Chicago that works.)
  7. My new job is great. I think that these are some of the best people in the world.
  8. It’s a great west coast location — a very livable city that’s a quick flight to Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver BC and even Los Angeles. I’ll trade better access to LA and San Francisco for longer flights to Miami and New York any day.
  9. It’s a surprisingly vibrant, urban city. The downtown has a lot going on and there are close in neighborhoods like the Pearl that are great fun. There are great restaurants everywhere. A lively music scene. For a place that’s 1/6 the size of Chicago, there’s a lot going on.
  10. The lifestyle here is very active. Bicycles are everywhere. Skiing is an hour away. People look fit, happy and healthy. Hopefully some of that fitness will rub off on me.

So that’s a few of the things I really dig about Portland. I think I’ll be here for awhile.


June 15, 2006

Wow, They Drive Very Badly…

Filed under: Portland, Portland Traffic — Tom @ 11:44 pm

I don’t think it’s their fault. The Portlanders have never really had to be on their game when it comes to driving. Back in Chicago, if you weren’t paying attention some taxi would run you off the road or you’d get jacked with a tire iron in a road rage incident. It was a challenging driving environment — narrow city streets, heavy traffic, non-existent parking.

Here is… different. I’ve gotten flipped off for parallel parking — the idea of turning on my signal to indicate parallel parking, pulling in front of the space, then backing into it was apparently totally alien and this guy pulled right up behind me. (Note that he did not honk. No one in Portland honks. Except me.)

Left turns at stoplights cripple traffic flow. If there’s a right turn lane, many Portlanders won’t go around people waiting to turn left. They’ll sit quietly in line, possibly forever. I got stuck five cars back behind someone who was unable to execute a left-hand turn. They wouldn’t pull forward into the intersection so they’d miss their chance to turn on the yellow, and no gap was big enough during the green. I was blocked in by parked cars — only the first two cars had access to the right-turn lane to go around the left-turner. We sat there for three cycles of the traffic light before the person managed their left turn. Quietly. Patiently. No horns. In Chicago, I think they’d definitely have gotten the tire iron from someone after the second green light expired.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. A city of mostly pleasant, patient drivers? You’d think it’s a dream come true. Certainly I’m happy to be away from the callous, perpetually-angry nutjobs behind the wheels in Chicago. But it’s created a lax driving style out here that just drives me crazy. And not in a good, Fine Young Cannibals kind of way.

The other day, I came across something that was bizarre even for Portland.

Portland has controlled-access at freeway entrances during rush hour. So you drive down the entrance ramp to two lanes, each with their own stop light. And these lights turn green at short intervals to space out the traffic that flows into the freeway. Personally, I think this is a good thing although many other transplants I’ve met complain about this. In Chicago these things were seldom seen and always ignored. But here people line up, obey the signals and traffic rolls onto the freeway in an orderly manner.

When I go to work, my route takes me down a long straightaway up to the freeway ramp. So I was able to see from about 1/4 mile back that this pick-up truck had stopped right on the line dividing the two access-control lanes. He’s managed to position himself perfectly in between the two lanes (and their sensors in the pavement) and the lights in both lanes are red. I drive to the entrance ramp and pull up behind.

I honk. Nothing. I honk again. Still nothing. Now there are two cars behind me. (I’m assuming they’re natives, because they did not honk. Of course, it’s possible they just felt that I had the honking under control.) So I pull around the truck, partly in the access lane and partly on the hard shoulder next to the concrete barrier. I look over and the guy in the truck looked at me, genuinely puzzled.

I wanted to find some way to communicate, to mime out that there’s a magnetic sensor in the pavement and it controls the light and you’re not on it and should probably just go, go, go, ignore the programming that’s telling you to stay put, ignore the bright red eye and just drive, drive like the wind, you magnificent bastard! And instead, I kind of shrugged.My light went green and I took off down the ramp.

And the truck got smaller and smaller and faded from sight in my rear-view mirror, motionless the entire time.

June 12, 2006

My Girlfriend is Circus Folk

Filed under: Chicago, Travel — Tom @ 12:02 am

I went back to Chicago for the weekend. My flight back to Portland is about 8 1/2 hours away.

Flying from Portland is a) so much easier than negotiating O’Hare and b) sort of a pain because I’m used to O’Hare, where I can get pretty much anywhere with a direct flight between American Airlines (who I vastly prefer) and United. But American is a direct flight to Chicago and the under 15-minute drive to the airport and small terminal made it a breeze. (And free Wi-Fi! In your face, O’Hare!)

So Diane has been wanting to take a trapeze class at the Flying Gaona’s Gym here for a long time. We went to the introductory class yesterday morning and it was pretty awesome. There were maybe a dozen people there.

I was super skeptical when Diane came up with this. But in this 90-minute class, Gaona’s took them from just dangling from a bar to an aerial hand-off.

From zero to aerial catch in 90 minutes!

They only got one shot at the catch with the time constraints of the introductory class. She did a fantastic job. I shot video of the whole affair that I’m going to cut down in iMovie at some point.

June 8, 2006

It’s a Trap!

Filed under: Portland — Tom @ 9:34 pm

I was right. I came across an intersection today that shot poison darts at me. The whole city really is a trap.

June 7, 2006

Danger Zone

Filed under: Motorcycling, Portland, Portland Traffic — Tom @ 11:34 pm

I think Portland’s plan is to kill all the outsiders.

You first need to understand that if you ride motorcycles, you already feel like the world’s out to get you. Car drivers routinely fail to see you — in fact, the University of Illinois has demonstrated in a number of studies that you’re invisible to some of these people.

But Portland has made things a little trickier. I think most motorcyclists know that intersections are where most crashes happen. In the northeast section of Portland where I’m staying, it’s commonplace for intersections to be totally unmarked. Portlanders look at me quizzically when I complain about this — they don’t seem to understand what I’m on about.

Look, I grew up in the midwest and I’ve lived in lots of places. No matter where I’ve been, every city has followed the same rules — intersections are controlled. Someone has a stop sign. If I don’t have one, then there is no question that I have the right of way.

I can hear what you’re thinking. “Come on, Tom, there have to be rules. I’m sure that if an intersection is unmarked, it’s implicitly a four-way stop, right? What’s the big deal?”

And you’re right. I could live with that. But that’s only half the problem — in Portland, the intersections are actually traps. What they’ve done is mark some of the intersections — not some areas, mind you, just some intersections.

Let me explain:

Yesterday, I was motoring along through Irvington. Stop signs alternated (I guess to keep traffic slow) in this residential part of the Irvington neighborhood so that only one direction of travel had to stop. So at the first intersection, I had a stop sign, at the next cross traffic had to stop and I was free to go, then me, then cross traffic, then me, then… an unmarked intersection. Nobody stops.

Why would you? You’ve just been trained for the last five blocks that the other guy will stop when you don’t. New to town? Don’t know the area? Ka-bang! Take that, you friggin’ transplant!

I really cannot understand why they’ve done this. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Maybe the guys putting the stop signs in just got bored.

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