Low on Gas (Stations)
We topped off the tank of our rental car in downtown Portland before leaving for the airport, but there was something wrong with the gauge, and we had hardly left the city limits before the indicator dipped to 3/4.
We thought that we would stop at a gas station at the airport, but what we didn't realize is there are NO gas stations there. We had to backtrack a few miles before we found one. Be forewarned...
Driving. Very Slow Drivers
People here are unskilled drivers because there is no snow. They do not share the road and drive 5 mph less than the limit. There is no minimum speed limit and no flashers are required for creeping along in the far lanes. They drive slow with large gaps in between autos. They smack up on sunny dry days. They do not drive on snow 6 months of the year so when the day of snow or sleet comes, it is like a national emergency. There are no salt and sand crews. Stay off main roads and take side roads or stay put and wait it out. The "snow-tire" is not commonly sold in Oregon but chains are, for that one day of white stuff. Pedestrians cross on Green and not on Red and you can't move until the walker clears the curb. There are bike lanes in the street for non-motorized vehicles. Sometimes these bicyclists will kick or thump your car at an intersection and damage your car. Crosswalk markings are not all uniform and some are hidden, or mixed with bus stop signs. There are roving traffic cams. Be forewarned, Cops use this as a source of revenue. Also, nobody drives in the breakdown lanes during traffic jams and traffic is not rerouted so keep snacks handy. It's not uncommon to see automobiles older than you that look like showroom condition. There is no salting and sanding here so it is possible to own one car for your entire life! The fact that you will see no big safety inspection stickers on the top of windshields is a clue you are not in the rust belt.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Weather is Vastly Variable with Location,Elevation
Over the small area covered by the city of Portland and its surrounding areas, there are perhaps 8 different climate areas, and elevations that range from sea level to slightly over 1,000 feet (about 300 meters). Some areas can be encrusted in ice while other areas are reasonably warm and possibly have sun.
Weather reports seem to usually use the Portland airport as the monitoring station, but the Portland airport sits in the wind blast zone from the Columbia River Gorge and is also located almost at sea level. Thus, frequently the weather reported for "Portland" doesn't match what is actually happening in the majority of the city. Most of the time there isn't that much difference. Other times, there is a huge difference.
Photo 1 shows a recent photo of the West Hills. In the level section of northwest Portland, the nice green grass shows no sign of accumulated snow. 400 feet above, in the hills, there is significant snow accumulation and signs have been folded down on the roads leading there saying that tire chains are being required. This is one of the best illustrations of how suddenly the weather can change in a short distance in Portland. Photo 2 shows what this looks like after walking up into the hills themselves.
Now, here is the painful reality: when the temperature drops just slightly in the evening, all this mess that is here just wet streets will turn to ice, and make a huge mess for those trying to drive anywhere. When both of these photos were taken in early 2008, the temperature was just slightly above freezing. Walking was easy during the day, as the water was liquid. Getting down these hills after it all freezes, either on foot or by driving, will not be an easy undertaking.
Here are some basic climate zones in the Portland area you may hear on weather reports:
"East County": this is a highly subjective term, and can be used to describe anything east of Interstate 205 to anything east of Gresham. Areas along the Columbia River get wind and cold winter weather the wind brings. Further south into Gresham and further east areas are in a cold weather zone from the Cascade mountains, and a wind from the east can drop the temperature a lot.
"West Hills": the ridge west of downtown Portland, and runs from West Linn north all the way to Longview, but generally the term only referrs to that area immediately west of downtown Portland.
"Downtown": generally west of the Willamette River and east of I-405, but the weather zone extends east all the way to Mt Tabor (SE 60th Avenue or so). This hill protects areas west from direct hits from weather from the east.
"Tualatin Valley": this area is west of the West Hills, and includes Beaverton and Hillsboro. It is protected from cold weather from the east wind, but it is higher in elevation than downtown Portland. One can be freezing while the other well above freezing.
The following areas are generally never referred to in local weather reports, but have separate weather systems:
Milwaukie to Oregon City and West Linn: generally these areas are somewhat further protected from cold weather by a ridge of hills on the east side of the metro area.
Clackamas: generally falls into the same category as the above, but if the weather is coming off the mountains it will come down a series of valleys and make Clackamas much different. Around April of 1993, there was a freak snow storm that happened in Clackamas, while the rest of the Portland area was enjoying a nice, warm spring day.
Troutdale (includes Wood Village and Fairview): this area receives the strongest winds from the Columbia River, and may be significantly colder (or at least feel that way!) than the general "East County" term.
Upper level of Oregon City and West Linn: these areas will get snow and ice when the freezing level is extremely low, but they are also be subject to fairly severe fog during the winter due to humidity from Willamette Falls.
The link below is to another tip I wrote about Portland weather, which features some links to weather information.
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
It isn't unusual for Portland street drains to get plugged up. Generally, they do this during heavy rains, and soon a huge puddle forms.
I'm not quite certain why it seems like this is a far worse problem here than in other cities I have visited. Possibly it has something to do with the shape of the street drains. Possibly it has something to do with the number of hills, which means certain street drains are particularly key to keeping water out of the street.
In any event, if you want to stay dry, you will want to stay away from these, particularly on busy streets where an automobile driving through one of these at high speeds will create a tidal wave and soak everything (and every one!) within range.
- Hiking and Walking
Mostly safe except for ...
As a 20 year resident I can say the it is fairly safe city (excluding some North Portland neighborhoods).
MAX & StreetCar: there is quite a bit of public transportation, usually it is safe. Be extra cautious though if you traveling on the eastside MAX train late at night, recently there has been a rash of violent crimes.
Street 'People': Unfortunately the city does very little to protect from aggressive panhandlers. Just ignore them. Also there is a lot of street 'kids', especially in the city parks. Don't make eye contact and they will leave you alone. Portland ranks very high in methamphetamine use, don't be surprised if the street kids offer to sale you some.
- Family Travel
A number of Portland (and some suburbs such as Gladstone and Oregon City) intersections in residential areas are still uncontrolled.
See the photo: there is no stop sign or even a yield sign on any of the corners of this street intersection.
About 30 seconds before I took this photo, some women went blasting through this at about 40 mph (the speed limit is 25!). While she didn't hit anyone, if two such people ignore the type of intersection they are entering a collision is going to happen.
If Driving or Cycling:
1. Keep the speed limit: 25 mph in Portland residential areas.
2. Watch for traffic, particularly those who aren't paying attention to where they are going.
3. Pay attention to the type of intersection, and be particularly observant around these that have no control devices.
If walking: pay particular attention to 2 and 3 above at this type of intersection.
Portland is slowly working on trying to eliminate these, but work is slow, and there are many intersections in the lightly traveled residential areas that only see a few cars a day.
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
Narrow Residential Streets
Some very narrow streets exist in the older residential areas of Portland. There are in fact even several of these downtown, though those have been converted into one-way streets to allow for modern traffic.
This isn't necessarily the case in some of the residential areas.
Just off Hawthorne, just off Division, and in various other areas of the inner east side you will find two way streets where you will have to wait for traffic coming the other direction. This is particularly the case if cars are parked on both sides of the street so that only one middle lane of traffic is available.
And if some idiot is driving too fast towards you and isn't paying attention? Either get run into or get out of their way.
If you visit the small art galleries in SE or go shopping on Hawthorne and park on one of the residential cross streets, you may find yourself on one of these. One or two of the worst ones are one-way in these areas now as well.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Downtown Under Construction (regularly)
There is always stuff under construction in downtown Portland. We are always promised "Life Will Get Better Soon!!". Don't ever believe it. Soon afterward, they will tear up all the streets again and make it almost impossible to get anywhere.
You might be able to get somewhere if you tried walking, but sometimes the closed sidwalks say "Sidewalk Closed Use Other Side" and point to the closed sidewalk on the other side of the street.
You might be able to get somewhere if you tried using public transit, but some of the re-routes can be quite arcane.
I was born in Portland, and it has been like this as long as I can remember.
Get Beaten and Tazed at the Refectory
If you are black and consider being tazed and beaten by the Portland Police Department a fun and entertaining way to spend your night, then by all means the Refectory is the place for you!!!
By the way, in case you were wondering why the police are ALWAYS outside, I'm told the police are hired by the Refectory to be there.
- Casino and Gambling
Unpaved Residential Streets!
There they are on the map: just like any other street, shown just the same as any other residential street.
But be careful! As any Portland resident will tell you, there are a number of city streets in Portland that have not been paved yet. Some may not be suitable for travel in small cars, and some may not be suitable for anything other than a walking path as they aren't suitable for any road vehicle to pass.
Almost all of the time, you will find these marked with signs that say "ROADWAY NOT IMPROVED" as if it weren't obvious.
Photo 1 shows a more severe case of unpaved Portland streets, while photo 2 shows a more typical situation.
Please be aware that these streets are not necessarily on the outskirts of the city either. Some are quite close to downtown. All of them are in quiet residential areas though, so most likely you will only run into these if you are here to visit friends or relatives.
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
Portland sidewalks are festooned with inlaid metal plates every other block or so in the downtown core area. No, they are not decorative; they are entirely utilitarian, capping underground elevators, subterranean maintenance & control, etc. Juxtaposition of the plates, slippery tennis shoe spin-offs, unwary tourists, and the Monsoon Season can create unexpected problems. Some are as slippery as snot on a doorknob. Take care.
You will find plenty of them as you walk down the sidewalks in practically all neighborhoods! Don't be afraid to say no. They are generally far to lazy too do anything to you! If you are driving - don't give any money to the panhandlers who stand by exit ramps with sad signs claiming they are homeless. Ninety percent of them are just trying to get money to get their daily drugs so don't feel bad about ignoring them.
Chinatown at Night
First of all "Chinatown" isn't known to be really dangerous but the somewhat seedy area is worth a mention. If you are walking through..day or night you are bound to see some shady people who seem to be up to no good...think drug deals and women of the night. There are some popular bars and clubs in the area..so if you do find yourself wandering the streets afterdark just stick to the more crowded streets and look like you know where you are going...even if you don't. (always a good idea in a city) There are taxis abound after bars close (2am) which might be a good idea. Do make sure to visit in the day and take a tour of the Classical Chinese Garden!
Its a city and with it comes...
Its a city and with it comes crime. Maybe not as much as other places but seeing it take place made many more stories about it come out.
In this particular case we were in a bar watching the Yankees/Seattle game on a Sunday afternoon. Popular transportation method is bicycles. Well right out from of the bar we watched was someone undid the lock from the bike (about 5 minutes before we realized) and then reattached the lock to what it was on without the bike and rode off.
Well a huge chase ensued. Finally a worker in a cherry picker lowered the boom on the guy and he was arrested a couple minutes later inside a video store.
white domintaed city!
portland has the highest white popualation in US city with over 500,000 population (77%) white. There are alot of racist cops and people in oregon. There are also alot of wannabe gangter white boys. portland is a boring city with no night life. People in oregon dont know how to drive, they drive soo slow on freeways.
the weather also sucks!
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