Thursday, August 01, 2013

Vacation Wrap up

We have been back from our Oregon trip for a few days, still catching up on laundry, (why is there always laundry? I even did a load in the hotel!) so everything still feels pretty fresh and new. The second half of the trip turned out to be mostly visiting college campuses. Henry is heading into high school, but he has been following college sports for years and knows exactly what schools he wants to see, namely, Oregon State University in Corvallis and University of Oregon in Eugene.

Henry the future beaver in the brand new basketball gym
Henry (on the 2nd floor) in UO business school
The loot, book from Powell's, yarn from Pearl Fiber Arts
How interesting some of you mentioned Portlandia in last week's comments. I have seen a few episodes of the show (Henry too), and really enjoyed it. I wanted to visit Portland, because it's the city of bikes and public transit, fresh organic local foods and free spirited Portlandias unpolluted by the corporate national retail chains, not to mention all the yarn shops. It'd only be fitting for me to plan a trip that takes me there on the train, and we'd find a little place to stay through AirBnB, maybe someone's backyard cottage, or a garage converted into tiny apartment; we'd get around town on bikes or buses; we'd shop in the local farmer's market or eat at the food carts. I wanted to support startups, small business, local economy, and do everything to avoid big boxes and corporate chains.

Best laid plans.

Searching for a place to stay for two people that are not a couple is a bit of a chore, and it's nearly impossible on AirBnB. I had to look at each posting and click on the pictures to see if there is a fold out sofabed or cot or some other alternative arrangement. If I search for accommodation for three people I end up with a family size apartment that's way over my budget. Occasionally there are places with the right arrangement, but the place may not be available for all the dates, or the owner looks like a gansta or spacey hippie that hasn't logged in the site for a few days. Do I really want to stay on their property?

So I went back to the familiar. On Expedia,,, every hotel has a two-queen-bed standard room, and an 800 number I can call any time. Yeah, the rates are pretty good too.

And then there is the train. According to Amtrak website, for the two of us, round trip between San Jose and Portland, with a roomette, it'd set me back close to $1000. A rental car costs less than $200. The Chevy Impala we got was a gas guzzler at 25 mpg, after 1600 miles the total gas expense was less than $250. A lot of things we did, like going to the coast and visiting the campuses, we wouldn't have done without a car. We were very glad to have the options.

As for the farm fresh organic food, we hit quite a few food carts. I used an app, CartCompass, to find the nearest pod, then it switches to Google Maps for the directions. The food can be a hit and miss as well as seating, and it's outdoors of course. After a few days I caved and let Henry hit Subways and other familiar places, since I really needed Starbucks some afternoons to stay upright and alert. You can't beat the AC, a nice cool place to sit down while charging my phone, and free wifi so we can research our next destination.

We really enjoyed our trip, but sometimes I wonder if it's reasonable for me to insist on "doing it right", and why it's so hard to "do it right". After my years in bay area, I might have become one of the suburban car-centric Americans that can't live without supermarkets, coffee shops, and 24x7 customer service.

While we were on the road, my husband got a call one morning and was informed his position was eliminated, in fact, his entire group was disbanded. Six hours later on the same day he received an offer from a group he had been talking to (in the same company) with a job offer. I was happy to be away for those few hours and avoided all the drama. We are all extremely pleased the world worked its own magic.

A few days before we left Henry's transfer to a new high school was finalized after couple of weeks of intense negotiations. It's been a roller-coaster 8th grade year, especially the last few weeks. In the new school Henry will have a chance to enjoy playing music, continue to pursue his academic interests, start learning Chinese, and may even join the basketball team. This freshman will have a nice fresh start indeed.

If you are still reading this far, have a Happy Friday! Join the party on Andrea's blog, and leave me a comment!


Cathy said...

Wow! What an interesting trip! Thanks for the write up, this reader is particularly grateful as I will be doing the same journey (almost) to Portland and beyond... Glad to hear Bill's job worked out and Henry is having a fresh start in high school, wish my sons' schools taught Chinese!

WonderWhyGal said...

Very interesting a great to know when looking for rooms. I have had similar experiences when I wanted a special weekend with the kids. It's easier when they are little but your Henry is older.

Thanks for travel tips too. I've wanted to go on train trips but it is definitely more expensive.

Happy for your husband too.

Kathryn Ray said...

I think it sounds delightful.

Have to agree that train travel is quite expensive. We've looked into it here and there and always ended up driving.

Had never thought about the bed situation for non-couples while travelling... Very good point. ;-)

Chrisknits said...

I love trips! Cut yourself some slack. Unless you want to live in a hut and walk everywhere and grow your own food, allow the modern world to supply some of the conveniences. And remember, corps are made up of real people. Not everyone can work for a mom and pop. They still need to feed their kids.

Nichole Burke said...

Well, welcome back! We just got back from Alaska ... catching up on blogging and laundry here too!

Heather Woollove said...

Travel is all about learning to 'bob and weave', isn't it? It sure sounds like you did well facing all of your challenges and had a great time, to boot!

Voie de Vie said...

I'm catching up on blog reading over here, and glad to hear (and see!) you enjoyed yourself in Portland and Oregon places south.

I'm not really a big fan of AirBnB, but give me an opportunity to bid on, and I'm a very happy camper. I've lowballed the heck out of it, and have really come up with some great rates at very nice hotels.

But about the train - it is more expensive, but you can still do better on price if you don't book a sleeping car! San Jose to Portland can be done in a day, and then you'd have the hotel room at the other end to use. Having the car on your trip did seem like a definite plus, since you were going to several places just enough off the beaten path, but I'm still a big fan of working out public transportation options. :)

Glad to hear your husband landed nicely on his feet, and good luck to Henry this fall.