Maybe there’s something within a routine that begs to be broken. Working a desk job in Seattle, forty-plus hours a week, fifty weeks out of the year – you get in a cycle of gathering dust in your life. And every once in a while, you need to do something to shake the dust off, that breaks the cycle of monotony. For me, that looked like partnering with Passion Passport and Amtrak to escape to Portland, Oregon for a weekend.
I had never taken the train before. Like every other millennial, I’ve grown up watching movies about train trips and I had often dreamt about what it meant to “go by train.” In a cloud of anxious excitement, I woke up early on Saturday morning to get to the train station- but like any good Seattleite, I got a cortado to-go from my favorite local roaster, Elm Coffee. Caffeinated and content, I strolled over to King Street Station and felt my heart race as I started this much-needed adventure.
The train ride itself was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was a fusion of freedom and transportation- while most people chose to remain at their seats for the duration of the trip, I decided to explore the cars, one by one, finding my favorite spots to absorb the experience of this old-but-new mode of transpiration. Four hours later, our train slowed into Union Station in Portland, just minutes away from the Pearl District. Just after lunch time and just as hungry, I raced off the train to one of the most unique things about Portland- the food carts.
There are pods of food trucks all throughout downtown Portland. Older generations might seem skittish of eating food made in the back of a renovated ambulance, but I’ve learned that the best food comes from the places you’d never expect. To top it off, Portland is a city for food lovers. Food trucks that serve bad food just don’t survive- that’s Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, right? Only the best survive.
Upon finishing my burrito in the living room of downtown Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square, it hit me- I am in Portland, and the day is mine to seize. If there’s one thing I love to do in a new city, it’s exploring on my own. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Portland over the last three years and have already found my favorite spots- but for a day, I wanted to do nothing familiar. I asked friends for recommendations and only went to the places that were unknown to me. And as the golden hour hit Portland, I fell in love wandering around the streets draped in rich light and heavy shadows.
My friend Branden Harvey said that the best place to watch the sunset is on the east side of the river, from the esplanade. Since the light was getting low and I didn’t want to miss this experience, I started running through downtown Portland, making my way towards one of the many bridges that span the river, only to stop to take pictures of this beautiful (albeit stumpy) downtown. I made it to the prime spot with seconds to spare, as I saw the sun slip over the glass and concrete and brick and forested hills nested behind town.
The glow after sunset lingered for a long time, so I kept walking around. I found a bridge full of locks with couples’ initials written on them- testaments to love and loss and first kisses and last words. The chain link seemed heavy, burdened by the weight of all the intense moments forever fastened to the bridge. I wanted to stay and sit in the beauty of it all, but the fading daylight reminded me that I had to get back downtown and get back to exploring.
I ate dinner at another food cart and continued drinking in all that Portland had to offer. In that perfect summer cool that happens only in the Northwest at night, Portland transformed from a quiet, slow town to a city full of vibrant experiences for every type of person in every walk of life. Old Town has its famous donuts at Voodoo, with a line a mile long as people wait to get a snack before (or after) going out on the town. Moving on, I started heading back towards Goose Hollow and towards my hotel, stopping for ice cream on the way. I returned to my room exhausted but content. My feet were physically dusty from walking nearly thirteen miles in a day, but my soul was full of fresh air, like it had just emerged from a pool after doing a cannonball.
Sunday morning greeted me with a hazy blue sky and the promise of 80 degrees and sun. I’ve learned that Portland is a city of people that love breakfast and coffee, so I made sure to grab plenty of both. Call me nostalgic, or a creature of habit, but I wanted to spend a few moments at some of my favorite places in town before I left. Most of these places are downtown off Burnside: Powell’s Books, The Ace Hotel and Stumptown Coffee, Heart Roasters, and a church that has helped me grow into who I am today. Minutes turned into hours as I saw friends, new and old, and enjoyed just being, rather than doing, in Portland— a town that is famous for nothing, quite literally. Doing nothing in Portland is one of my favorite things to do!
Somehow, much too soon, it got late enough for me to head back towards Union Station. Union Station, similar to Seattle’s train station, has an antique feel to it. Being dark now, we lined up and boarded the train, many passengers going to sleep, some staying up to work, others still calling loved ones while hanging out in the observation car. I chose to watch a movie in between running around and taking more photos, and enjoying the selection of food available in the lounge car.
Taking time to shake dust off of your life is so important. It doesn’t always have to be travel— sometimes it’s washing your sheets and eating breakfast in bed, or going to a baseball game with your closest friends. But for me, travelling is always entirely life giving and helps me gain a bigger worldview. Experiencing a new side of Portland, however near or far that is from Seattle, opened my eyes a little wider to all the beauty that this world has to offer. It reminded me to stop and notice the cracks in the sidewalk, or the reflection in the store window, or the person asking for money at the intersection, or the food truck that I had never heard of before. There’s something beautiful to being alive. The question is, will you take the time to notice it?
Words By Chase Blood
Chase Blood and Tommy Blades were invited to travel from Seattle to Portland through a partnership between Passion Passport and Amtrak. All views are their own.