Trains, Elephants & Witches In Portland!

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Day 85 – Saturday July 14, 2007 – Portland, Oregon

How do you evaluate a city you might want to live in with just one day to do it? Well, you don’t. Honestly, we didn’t think that we would find out everything about Portland in one day. We know that every place has its good and bad things, so we just wanted to bum around and see what we could stumble upon. We thought, what better a place to start than downtown in the Chinatown district.

Our reason for venturing into Chinatown was to see the Chinese Garden. We have seen a few Japanese Gardens, but never a Chinese one. After parking and paying our admission we toured the garden. Many of the materials were shipped in from China to build this garden in 2000. In fact, in addition to the materials, a handful of workers also came to complete the construction. The result of their work is a truly tranquil place right in the middle of downtown Portland. The garden helped us to get the day started on the right foot.

From the Chinese Garden, we walked about five blocks through Chinatown to a small park that was recommended to us by one of the garden’s workers. Shawn Reece played around for a while and we got to see an interesting Chinese statue. We were sad to look across the street and see Beerfest going on, since with Shawn Reece, we couldn’t join in the festivities! Ok, if you know me, then you know that I am not a big beer drinker, but it was nice to fantasize.

After shooting five scenes for a make shift secret agent movie starring Shawn Reece and Jasmine in the park (Look for it coming to the website in the near future), we decided to go to Washington Park to see the Japanese Tea Garden, which I had been told was free. After spending twenty minutes looking for parking, we finally were walking to the Japanese Garden, when…..

“What is that? Do I see train tracks?” Yes I saw train tracks and ran over to see what the train was. It was the Portland Zoo Train and I quickly found out that the only way to ride it was to buy zoo admission. Since zoo admission was reasonable, I bought three tickets before Jasmine could tell me not to. It is a train after all and I love me a train! The train ride turned out to be quite substantial at thirty-five minutes round trip, so I was glad that we experienced it. We also ended up spending about two hours walking through the zoo. (Not a bad bonus!)

Portland Zoo is famous for it’s elephant population. While we have seen quite a few animals on this trip, this was our first zoo (though not our first animal type park), so we hadn’t seen an elephant up close on this trip. One elephant that we saw gave us quite a show. After he shyly played with the water for a while, he suddenly jumped in and gave himself a bath. We all watched with enjoyment as he floated in the water and splashed all around. Even two ton elephants love to play in the water!

Overall, the Portland Zoo is pretty good sized and we enjoyed it. After leaving the zoo we headed once again to the Japanese Tea Garden. The Japanese Garden turned out not to be free and we didn’t want to pay to enter another garden, so we opted to see the Rose Garden right next door. This particular Rose Garden is special in that it features over 500 different varieties of Roses. This is by far the most anywhere. It also fits in with Portland’s nickname of “The Rose City”.

It was in seeing the Rose Garden that we stumbled upon something special. We saw a sign advertising a free production of the Wizard of Oz that was being held in the Rose Garden’s amphitheater at 6:30pm. Since it was about 6:15pm and we didn’t have anywhere to go, we headed right over to the theater with excitement. I am sure you know that The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite musicals! Oh, you didn’t know? Well what kind of friend are you then? =)

When we arrived, the director explained the nature of the production. Apparently, every summer this theater company holds acting classes for children on summer break and at the end of four weeks, they stage a production for the rest of the summer in the park. This year’s production is the Wizard of Oz. On weekend mornings, the kids do their version of the play, while their adult instructors perform it in the evening. While some of the actor’s performances were a little stale, for the most part, it was great. Heck, a few of them even had wonderful singing voices. It turned out to be a great taste of Portland’s culture.

We left the park at 9pm and headed back to the hotel. While this day didn’t give us a complete idea of everything that is Portland, it sure did make us feel good about this place. We definitely found it relatively easy to enjoy a little of what the city had to offer. I think that it is safe to say that Portland will stay on the short list of possible future homes for us. It will be interesting to see where that list takes us in the future. In the mean time, we still have a big world out there to circumnavigate.

I laid out our last five days of U.S. Travel yesterday. Tomorrow, we are driving down the coast of Oregon and plan to camp somewhere near the California border. Monday we will drive further down the coast and hit Redwood Forest National Park, before settling in Vallejo, CA. All of our careful planning has kept us right on time and we should pull into Las Vegas on Friday, July 20th. How about that! We are really looking forward to our coastal driving days. Nothing beats driving down narrow, windy roads with the vast ocean staring at you through the window.

The Coomer Family

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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