Car/Rental Car, Portland
Portland is one of two major metropolis in the Pacific Northwest and is serviced by train. Amtrak runs from Vancouver, BC in Western Canada to Los Angeles, CA. Portland's train station is of historical interest even if you are traveling by car and just want to have a look. Built in 1890, its original design would have made it the largest train station in the world. As it is, it is quite large and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
We were in the midst of a six month car camping trip around the US when we visited Portland so we came by car. Typical distances and times: Portland to Oregon Coast-130 miles/2.5 hours. Portland to Crater Lake National Park-250 miles/3.5 hours. Portland to Mt. Hood-75 miles 1.5 hours. Portland to Seattle-175 miles/2.5 hours. Portland to San Francisco-600 miles/10 hours.
Update: December 2007
Newly installed parking meters in the PDX downtown core have not been well received for obvious reasons; there is more to it now then merely dropping in a few coins, although that is still an option. Most local folk should be used to them by the time the Monsoon Season rolls around.
In the meantime, read the instructions. Price & time alloted may vary depending on location. The mean green time machines are solar powered, about 7 feet tall, and one per block instead of one per parking slot. Since they always show the correct time, they are obviously satellite controlled as well as solar powered.
The good news is there is an accurate digital clock on almost every downtown block, they accept Visa & MC cards as well as coins - and skimming by collection agencies in high traffic areas may become a thing of the past.
A later, smaller version version of the mean green machines have been installed curbside near the Lloyd Center.
In northwest Portland, just off of Interstate 405, there is a little unadvertised place where you can sometimes get fairly cheap gasoline.
The facility is operated by Portland radio cab,primarily as a benefit for the taxi drivers. However, the facility is open to the public, though it is almost completely unadvertised.
The official address is 1613 NW Kearny, but the entrance to the gas station is off of 16th avenue (see photo 1), right by the sign that advertises gas prices (see photo 2). The nearest I-405 freeway exit/entrances are 2A and 2B, which are only several blocks away. Lovejoy street (1 block north) is a major east-west road due to its connection with Cornell Road, which goes over the hill to Beaverton.
The prices charged are not necessarily better than the rest of Portland, but sometimes they may be. You will certainly find that it isn't worthwhile to drive a vast distance out of your way.
However, if you are passing through Northwest Portland and need to get gas, then it might be worthwhile driving past to see what the prices are and how they compare to the rest of Portland (especially downtown Portland, which tends to be high anyway).
Driving around Portland is very easy and doable. But...certain times of the day there are places to avoid. Listen to the radio for traffic updates in the morning, 8-9 ish and afternoon 3:30-6 p.m. ish. I-5 can be a mess going to and from Vancouver at those times and I-26 is very busy and can be backed up for miles, often. Listen to the radio and stay away when they say so, it can be bad.
Getting to Portland is easy from any direction.From California,by car,take the beautiful Pacific coast route. From Seattle it is just about three hours by car. Getting around in Portland is even easier..readily enjoyed on foot, or board the Portland Streetcar, which goes thru the Pearl District,Portland Art Museum, and out to Knobb Hill. Much of the route is within "Fareless Square" (essentially downtown)..where the public transit is FREE!
To a native Oregonian, driving around Portland makes complete sense. Not that they do it well mind you, but they know their directions. If you ask, you won't get street names - so get a map.
Portland is a civil engineering nightmare.
Many of the major roads have multiple names: Example 99W turns into Barber Blvd, which turns into Naito Parkway which used to be called Front (and most people still call it that) and is also known as the waterfront. All one street.
Best of all while traveling north on 99W (yes north on a street called W), it is 99w. Go the other way and it is 99W. Wait - wouldn't that be 99E - oh no 99E is on the East sode of town...Crimany!
Easy for people to get lost. But never fear the city is sectioned in quarteres. SW, NW, NE, SE. Burnside and the Wilamette river split the town. Makes it a little easier with every road called out with a NW marker if you are in the NW.
Can be confusing and online maps are notoriously incorrect for Portland.
Good luck driving, get a map!
If you're driving in Portland, a few tips. Watch out for bus-only lanes; avoid 1st, 5th, and 6th Avenues downtown. Major thoroughfares are Naito, 4th, Broadway, 12th, and Burnside. Be careful when turning right, don't run over bicyclists.