DOWNSHIFTERS' DIARY: Actually Downshifting

Just ending our first full week in the Pacific Northwest, we find ourselves straddling the line between being visitors and residents.

Over the last several days in Portland, we've eaten at some good restaurants, strolled along the Willamette River, and driven through more neighborhoods than one can shake a stick at. In the back of our minds -- no, actually, TOP of mind -- is the question of whether we want to make the Rose City our home.

We also had to find a mechanic, and have taken the car in for service twice: once for routine maintenance and once when we thought the A/C was dying - just in time for warmer weather (though "warm" in Portland isn't usually all that bad).

About three days in, we hit the wall. Looking for a place to live, whether an apartment or a city, is emotionally draining. So on Thursday we decided to shift into "vacation" mode until Monday, when we'll head to Seattle and resume this Battle of the 'Burbs.

On Thursday, we took the short drive to Cannon Beach. Haystack Rock was as lovely as we remembered it.

From there we drove to Astoria, then returned to Portland along U.S. 30., which parallels the Columbia River. Not as scenic a view as we'd hoped, with only the occasional glimpse of the river. But the sun -- and the mountains -- were out, lifting our spirits and reminding us why we've always said we'd return to the Pacific Northwest.

On Friday, we visited Oregon City and rode the 130-foot Municipal Elevator (built to connect the lower neighborhood with the neighborhood on the bluff above) It is the only outdoor municipal elevator in the U.S. and one of only four in the world. While it overlooks the Willamette River and offers some spectacular panoramas, seeing Willamette Falls requires a 3/4 mile walk along the bluff (provided the sidewalk is open; when we were there, it was closed for repairs) or a short drive along Highway 99W. We drove.

From the falls, it was a short drive to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Unfortunately, the center has recently closed due to lack of funding. Docents, however, have created a modest museum which contains some of the more noteworthy items from the center.

After a short visit to the museum, we drove to Multnomah Falls about 25 miles east of Portland to take in some of its scenic beauty and to enjoy the sunshine and temperatures in the mid-60s.

On the whole, a couple of restorative days spent enjoying Portland. Next week, we'll head to Seattle and see if we can decide which city we want to make our next home...

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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